Ephesians 3:1-12 (NRSV)
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
For the last number of years, every January I have spent a couple of weeks reminding you of the Mission and Vision of Ridge Church.
In case you have forgotten ----
Ridge Church exists for only one reason: TO MAKE DISCIPLE FOR JESUS CHRIST.
And we make disciple with the goal of transforming the world with the love of Jesus.
That is our sole purpose.
The question that every church struggles with --- certainly that we struggle with --- is
how do we do that
and what does it look like
10 - 15 years ago, the leadership of Ridge Church wrestled with that question and at the end of a two day retreat --- we came up with what we call our vision statement today:
We of Ridge United Methodist Church are united with Jesus Christ in His ministry of compassion for all people by offering HOPE, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and MEANING FOR LIFE.
The problem, has been, we have often looked to prescriptions to try and do those things ---- offer hope, love unconditionally and help people find purpose for their lives, rather than go back to the beginning.
And the beginning starts with ME --- it starts with you
Being transformed ourselves into Disciples of Jesus Christ --- before we head out to save the world
Two weeks ago --- I freaked a lot of you out --- as did my newsletter article.
I apologize for that --- it was not my intention --- but I am wrestling with some very serious demons right now.
Last winter I had a breakdown
Call it what you will ---
It cut me to the core --- and for a time I did really good
But those demons have a strong hold on me
I preached my most honest sermon I have ever preached last February 15th.
But even in it --- I was careful not to be too honest with you or myself
I am sure you don't remember it --- but it is on my blog site --- if you want to go back and read it
And I am sure it is somewhere in the sanctuary computer in audio form
This last week --- as I was working on my sermon for today --- it really hit me
It was a LIE
Not because what I preached wasn't true
It is probably one of the most truthful sermons I have ever preached
It was a lie because I failed to live it
I was that most horrible of persons who preaches:
Do what I say
Not what I do
And I have had to ask myself --- over and over again --- why didn't I practice what I preached?
Why did I give in to temptation and make other things more important than the truly important things.
I have wrestled many sleepless nights over this:
And I have come to the conclusion that I had been telling myself a lie
It is a lie that many of us, unfortunately, live by
One that is so dangerous, because we don't even know that we believe it
It least not consciously
And the lie that I kept telling myself was:
I can't change
I didn't believe that I could actually change --- and if I didn't believe I could --- there was no reason to even try!
And so I didn't
The demons inside whispered to me --- you can't
And I BELIEVED IT
And believing it was a LIE
What I am starting to realize is that every healthy thing that God creates changes
Nothing that is truly alive stays stagnant
If it doesn't change --- it is dead (or at least dying)
And I was (am?) dying
I love to quote John Maxwell --- you have heard this out of my mouth hundreds if not thousands of times
Change is inevitable
Growth is optional
Instead of changing forward --- growing --- becoming the man God wants me to be --- I gave in to my demons and started dying
And the saddest part about it all
God gave me many warning signs
· My hospitalization with vertigo
· My herniated disc this fall
· My need to go back on the sleep apnea machine
· Nancy has been telling me over and over
Sometimes we refuse to listen
And I closed my ears and let the demons fill my head and soil my heart
I created a soundtrack to blot out the opportunities to grow healthy and instead chose to die slowly
My first step in healthy transformation is REALIZING THAT I CAN GROW
I can change --- I can change (it is a mantra that I must repeat)
In the greater scheme of things --- coming to that realization may be the easiest step of all --- but without it --- nothing will change
I must believe --- that I CAN CHANGE
The really hard part is looking inside and asking yourself the really tough questions --- the questions we all want to avoid
WHY --- Why do I refuse to change?
And the answer for me came in the most unlikely spot
As many of you already know, Nancy and I are planning on going to New Zealand in June. In order to prepare for this trip of a lifetime we have been watching with Haley the Lord of the Rings trilogy. YES, it is long!!!! But well worth the effort.
In watching the videos, I realized something about me --- this is hard for me to confess . . .
I am very driven by other people's approval of me.
I crave it
What I mean by that is that if somebody doesn't think I am doing a good job, or challenges my motives --- or even quite simply just doesn't like me
I take it personally
I do my best not to let you know that I take it personally --- to let anybody know --- but I do --- it eats me up inside.
And it is crazy some of the ways that it manifests itself.
· those of you who haven't turned in your pledge cards --- yep, I take it personally
So lots of times I try to not know who that is, so I won't be hurt
Crazy --- I know --- but that doesn't mean it's not real
When this happens, I become hurt, and angry and defensive
I don't like to admit that people affect me that way
But they do
Unfortunately, other people's opinions seem to matter a great deal to me (even if I pretend otherwise . . .)
I let them tell me who I am
It's crazy --- I know
Don Miller on his blog recently wrote:
As I’ve grown older and read more and more about psychology, I’ve realized that, in part, this is by design. We really do shape our opinions about ourselves, in large part, through the opinions of others. It’s as though we wear certain clothes and act a certain way and try to succeed at things so other people will tell us we are good or valuable. And when they do, we feel a little better about ourselves and when they don’t, we start thinking we are losers
If you don't believe me --- Just ask Dave Miller.
Dave is one of the few people that I can talk to about things --- he is a great sound board and he has heard me share some of my anger, frustration, defensiveness over the years
He often tries to remind me not to shoot the messenger
He is a great friend!!
I am kind of slow
I have to say things over and over to myself to get them to sink in
Twice this past year I had the opportunity to hear Bob Goff.
The more I read his stuff --- the more I wish I could be like him
He is a lover!
A faithful lover!
He has extraordinary passion --- extraordinary love
Gosh, I wish I could have it . . .
But one thing that he constantly says is:
Don't let the past define you
Don't let others tell you who you are
I have told you that many times --- but I haven't believed it myself!
I have let my past
They are demons who rejoice in me making the same mistakes over and over again.
I have to learn to listen to the RIGHT PEOPLE
And, maybe most importantly, I have to remember why I was created
· to love Jesus
· to love Nancy
· to be faithful to Nancy, Jessica, Lindsey and Haley
When I do those things --- the rest is pretty easy
But it all starts with ME
I have been seeking the love and adoration of YOU
And you have loved me more than I deserve
But when I have failed you --- and I have failed all of you somewhere along the way --- your hurt at my failure becomes magnified in my life in a crazy sort of way.
I have made the mistake in believing that your love --- other's love is what I need in my life to validate my worth.
When I disappoint or let someone down --- I feel like a looser
And because I have been chasing approval from others --- I have failed to do the most important thing --- I have failed to love myself!
I have to learn --- we all have to learn --- how to really love ourselves!
Because, if we want to make a difference in the world we must first change ourselves!
Over the next few weeks we are going to look at how John Wesley transformed the world by changing himself.
If you haven't read Adam Hamilton's book REVIVAL --- which is all about Wesley and the transformation that he took --- I encourage you to do so.
Paul in our text this morning reminds us that we have all be called
Called to change the world with the love of Jesus
It starts with ME
It starts with you.