In a world characterized by short-term desires, how do we prioritize what we care about most?
- Where do you think natural desires come from? In what ways are they problematic?
- When it comes to living according to our values and trying to achieve personal goals, why is it easy to undermine our own progress?
- Think about one thing you want in your life right now. Why do you think you want it?
- James, the brother of Jesus, explained that temptations and desires can drag us away from what matters most to us. Are there any habits or behaviors that distract you from pursuing what you really want? Explain.
- What are some ways you can keep your values front and center when distractions threaten to throw you off course?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
What do you want? What do you really want? I’ll tell you one thing that you really want, you want your way, I want my way. We wanna do what we wanna do, and we want what we want now. So on one one hand I say, “What do you really want?” And you come up with something good, or what do you want? You come up with something pretty good, but running in the background of your mind that drives a lot of our want to decisions, is we want our way, we wanna do what we wanna do, and we wanna do what we wanna do now. And as we said last week, the problem is this, if we always get our way, we lose our way. In fact, if we always get our way, we oftentimes get in the way of ourselves, we get in our own way. We also said that if we always do what we wanna do, we end up where we don’t wanna be.
And the third one we said is this, if we get whatever we want now, we may not get what we really want later. And all of us have experienced this, all of us have undermined our own future, undermined our own hopes and dreams, because we got what we want, and we got what we wanted now. And now we wish we could go back and not get what we wanted, because what we got kept us from getting to where we ultimately wanna be.
And then we dove in, and drove in a little bit deeper, and we said this, that lurking in the shadows… And this is where we’re going. Lurking in the shadows, lurking in the shadows of what we want, is what we value. That lurking in the shadows, and the reason I say is lurking in the shadows, is that there’s very little in culture, there’s very little in media, and there are very few relationships that will focus your attention on what is really important, what you value. And that’s what a value is, a value is what’s important. That lurking in the shadows, lurking in the shadows around the periphery of what I want, what I want now, or I want my way, this is what I want today, this is who I want to date, this is the job I want, this is what I wanna purchase, this is where I wanna live, this is what I want my wife to act like, this is what I want my husband to act like, this is what I want my kids to act like, this is what I want my parents not to know about.
All those wants, lurking in the periphery, are things that we actually value. For example, relationally. If I were to say, “What do you want relationally?” You could tell me, “I wanna get married.” Okay, but what do you value? What’s behind I wanna get married? “Well, I wanna date.” That’s great, you should wanna date, but what’s behind that? What do you really want relationally? What do you really want financially? “Well, I wanna be rich.” Well, good, I hope you’re rich, but what do you really want financially. Lurking outside, in our peripheral vision, outside of our peripheral vision, lurking in the shadows, are values that we rarely ever stop and think about. And it goes deeper than that. What kind of person do you want to be? We’re gonna talk about this next week. What about your character? What kind of person do you want to be? You know what you want, you know what your relationships are gonna be like, you hope. You’ve got some goals financially, but who do you want to be?
These are the kind of deeper issues, the value questions that should drive us past our surface want. How to get what you really want.
Here’s where we landed last week. We said this, and this is so true. “We will never get what we really want until we discover what we really value.” And this is what we’re gonna begin doing, and we’re really gonna dive into this deep next week. And here’s why, because unless somebody fastens your attention on what you really value, you probably will not slow down enough to discover what it is. And no one can answer this question for you. There’s no preacher, there’s no teacher, there’s no book. No one can answer the question for you, “What do you really value?” But you will never get what you really want until you discover for yourself what you actually value.
Now here’s the interesting thing. This is not a religious thing, this is just a thing-thing. Now as a Christian, I think God created us to operate this way, but whether you believe that or not, until you discover what you value, you will never get what you really, really want.
Now, as Jesus followers, we take this one step further, because we believe there is a God who has invited us to call Him Father. And we believe He sent His son into the world, and the fabulous thing about Jesus is that Jesus consistently pointed to value instead of want. And Jesus consistently pointed His audience past what they initially want to what they would ultimately want, from the initial to the ultimate. To what’s right in front of me, to what’s beyond what’s right in front of me. So what we believe as Christians is this, “That we will never get what we want, that we will never get what we really want until we discover what is most valuable.” And we believe that Jesus points the way, but even if you’re not willing to stretch that far, you really need to figure out how to discover what is most valuable to you.
Now having said that, this should be easy, right? We do a little exercise, we do a little reading, we do a little thinking, we write a few things down, we discover what’s most valuable to us and then we just go from there, right? So I’m gonna give you some super practical things to do, but here’s what I wanna focus on today, because this is so important.
The problem is this, the problem is this. Valuable, valuable, and choosing what’s valuable is not natural, it’s unnatural. Choosing valuable is unnatural. The reason this is difficult isn’t because you lack discipline. The reason this is difficult is not simply because you lack information. This isn’t resolved with new information and better discipline. What this is about is something much, much deeper. There is an internal conflict that all of us have experienced, we’re gonna talk about it, all of us experience. There is an internal conflict between what comes natural and what we really value. And most people are never able to break through the natural to embrace the valuable, but when they do, everything in their life changes. And I want that for you. And I think ultimately, you want that for you, but it is not an easy battle to win.
In fact, I think the person that describes this battle the best is actually one of the New Testament authors. In fact, he wrote over half of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee. He hated Christians, he was a good law-keeping Jewish man, hated Christians, tried to put the church out of business in the first century, and then he became a Jesus follower. He wrote a bunch of letters to churches he planted, but one of his letters, he wrote to a group of Christians that he had never visited before, to a city that we don’t know if he’d ever been there before yet. He wrote to Christians living in Rome. Now if you were a Christian living in Rome in the first century, that is not a safe place to be. And what’s so fascinating is by the late 40s AD, 45, 46, 48, 50 AD, there were hundreds of Christians already in the city of Rome, which is fascinating. So there are a whole a bunch of house churches, maybe a dozen to 15 house churches. The Apostle Paul writes a letter to these Christians living in Rome, and in this letter, is part of the letter, he describes this conflict that all of us wrestle with and he puts it in terms we can all understand.
Here’s what the Apostle Paul says, “I do not understand what I do.”
That’s it. You just need to put that up on your mirror.
Engrave it in a plaque and put in the foyer of your home. People walk in, “Ah! I do not understand what I do?” Romans 7:15. That’s interesting, yeah. This is my life verse. “I do not understand what I do.” Now this is an amazing thing, in fact, if you don’t like the Bible, you like this part of the Bible ’cause you can relate to… You know this part’s true, right? Because every single one of us could stand up right now and tell a story. We don’t have to go back days and days about something that we did and then after we did it, we looked at ourselves in the mirror and said to ourselves, I’m not saying this to you but you said to yourself. “You idiot! You idiot! Why did you do that? Why did you eat that? Why did you sleep in? Why did you call her? Why did you say yes? Why did you agree? Why did you do that again? Why did you buy some more of those?” “I do not understand what I do.”
What is wrong with you? What is wrong with me?
That’s the point of today’s message. There is a conflict between what you value and your human nature. It is a big deal.
This is not just get more information and more discipline and I’ll be fine. It is deeper than that. And the Apostle Paul, here’s what he says, “I do not understand what I do.” We gotcha, Paul. “For what I want to do… ” There’s our word, how to get what you really want. “For what I want to do, what I really wanna do, I do not do.” Well, Paul. Well, just do what you wanna do. Stop! I mean this is easy. You know what you wanna do, yeah? Well, do it! “For I know what I wanna do but I do not do it and what I do not do… ” [laughter] Imagine, I wonder how many times he wrote this before he could even get it straight.
“For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Now again, this is so transparent. You know what he’s saying? He’s saying, “There’s something that I really want, I know what I really want. But I settled for something less than that and then I end up”, this is a strong word, “hating it.” Now let me just say something to just a few of you. Hey, look up here a second. Just be honest, some of you right now, if you’re honest, you hate yourself. And you hate yourself because of what your self has done. And you were there the whole time.
And you would like to blame your mama and you’d like to blame your boss and you’d like to blame the world and we all wanna blame, but right now you kinda hate yourself that you need to… Pay attention. Paul says, “You know what? I understand that. Because if I continue to do what I don’t want to do, after a while I hate what I do and hating what I do is just about a half inch away from hating who I see in the mirror.” Maybe that’s where you are right now. You understand, this is a big deal. This is a wrestling match. This is an everyday thing. This is an everyday, maybe every hour struggle. And you’d say, “I don’t know why I do what I do.” He goes on. He says, “And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it’s good, or I agree that the law is good.” Now, here’s what he’s talking about. The Apostle Paul was a Jewish man, as I said, he’s a Pharisee and he was a really good Pharisee, which meant he was a really good law-keeper. In fact, Paul said, of all the people who were trying to keep the Jewish law, Paul would say, “I was one of the best.” This is before he was a Christian, in fact, I think the struggle he is describing here was his struggle before he became a Jesus follower.
But he wasn’t a bad person before he started following Jesus. In fact, his problem was he was so ridiculously good. He was one of the goodest people around, but here’s what he’s saying. “As hard as I try to be good and as much as I was committed to the law of God, I just couldn’t pull it off, as hard as I tried. I knew what I really wanted. I just couldn’t do it.”. So he goes on, he says, “For… ” he explains, “For I have the desire.” I have the want to. It’s in me to want to. “I have the desire to do what is good but I cannot carry it out. For… ” He goes on, he’s almost done. “For I do not do the good I want to do… ” there’s our word. “But the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.” Now this should make you feel better. This guy wrote half the New Testament. So if you could relate to that it’s like, “Okay, here’s somebody in the Bible I can relate to. I don’t know about Jesus, he’s like the Son of God. But here’s a guy who’s like both feet planted firmly on the ground, here’s a guy I can relate to.” What’s his point? His point is this. And this is what we’re talking about today.
That what we naturally want, and we all basically share the same naturally wants. What we naturally want is often in conflict with what we ultimately want, right? That what we naturally want, what I want now. What I naturally want is often, in fact, it’s almost always in conflict with what we ultimately want. And what we ultimately want is what I wanna help you understand is what you really, really want. That valuable, what’s of value is unnatural. And the truth is, you know this, we’ve all gotten what we naturally wanted and ended up with the very thing we didn’t ultimately want. Because you know what? When it comes to your nature, nature knows nothing of fairness, nature knows nothing of compassion. If you wanna know what your human nature is really like, just look at nature.
And you say nature’s beautiful, nature is only beautiful from a distance. When you get super close to most of nature, it is dangerous and harmful. And here’s what you find, there is no forgiveness in nature. There is no generosity in nature. There is no compassion in nature. There’s no grace in nature. And the nature that we see around us, and the nature that we see in the animal kingdom is part of who we are as human beings. That human nature or human naturally, in other words, just go with your human inclinations, here’s what it looks like, if you needed a list, it’s cheating, it’s lying, it’s racism, adultery, me first, revenge. I mean, you embrace nature, this is what you look like after a while, and we look at all six of those things and say, “Yeah, that’s a good way to undermine your own future. That’s a good way to undermine your own career. That’s a good way to undermine your own academic future and hopes and aspirations.” Paul, who again told us, “Hey, I can’t do what I wanna do,” in another letter that he wrote to some Gentile Christians living in the province of Galatia, in our New Testament, it’s called the Book of Galatians, but it’s just a letter to a group of Christians living in this Roman province of Galatia.
Here’s what he says, maybe you’ve heard this before, he says, “When you follow,” and this is what we’re talking about, “When you follow the desires of your… ” And he calls it a sinful nature. Now, if you don’t like the word ‘sinful’, you can take that out for now, because it’s just your nature. It all goes to the same place. But Christians believe, because the New Testament teaches and Jesus talks about it, and the Apostle Paul elaborated on, that our nature is broken, that there’s something wrong with you, there’s something wrong with me. That this isn’t just information and discipline, there’s something fundamentally broken and I know you resist that, and we resist that and that’s just not so polite to say, but all you need to do to prove it is to think about, “Do you ever do what you don’t wanna do, and you don’t know why you do what you do.” And the answer is, “Yes.” It’s because there’s something fundamentally broken.
So the New Testament author, the Apostle Paul, doesn’t mind talking about not just human nature, but our sinful human nature. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear. In other words, he’s saying, “I don’t even need to tell you what they are, you already know.” In other words I could put a big board up here and I could say, “What are some of the results of our broken, fallen human nature?”
And you would start throwing out words and I would just put a list of words up here and we all go, “Yep, that’s me,” or, “It’s her, for sure.” “That’s him.” “That’s them, that’s certainly my kids.” “I know people like that.” “Yeah, I got some of that in me.” We all know what we’re all tempted to do. But he gives us the list anyway: Sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, and two words we don’t talk much about, idolatry and sorcery. Do you know what idolatry is? Idolatry is basically putting things before people. “Don’t touch that. Don’t go over there. And don’t walk on that.” Or, “Can I borrow your… ” “No, you can’t borrow my… Because I worship this one. That’s what idolatry is. Sorcery, you know what that is? You go, “Well, I don’t do that, no.” Sorcery is just trying to control people, that’s what sorcerers do, that’s what wizards do, that’s what magic is. Magic is, there’s something I can do or get somebody do for me, that will control the outcome of your behavior. Hostility, quarreling, jealousy, the comparison trap, celebrating when other people have a setback. Is this not like the ugliest thing on the planet? Of all the yuck and the junk in me, this is the thing I hate the most.
Outbursts of anger, if you’ve got a temper, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, just got to have your way, just got to have your way, always got to be right. Dissension, that’s a word we don’t use much anymore, dissensions, division, envy and drunkenness.
I mean, come on, all of us, all of us watching online, on television, in the room, all of us are a relationship or two away, a family member or two away from someone who would say, “It’s not what I want. I don’t know why I do what I do, but it’s destroying my family, it’s destroying my finances, it’s destroying my career, it’s destroying my prospects for the future.” Right? But you know what, before we pile on? All of these things have the potential to do the same thing. And, I know you’re good people, but they all come naturally. In fact, the odds are one or more of these things have kept some of you, and in fact have kept most of us from getting what we ultimately, ultimately want.
That’s a big deal, isn’t it? This isn’t just, “Hey, here’s a sermon, get some information and kind of move on,” no. No matter what you know and how disciplined you are, it is a daily, daily battle. But, I’m here to tell you, here’s why we’re talking about this for a few weeks. This is a battle you can win. There is a way to embrace valuable over natural. That there is a way to get what you really and truly want, what you were created for, what you are designed for. Now, the last passage I wanna look at, then we’ll wrap this up. Last week, I told you about James, you know about James, brother of Jesus. How cool is that? That we have something written by the brother of Jesus. And we looked at some things he wrote last week, I wanna wrap up the scripture part of this message by looking at one other thing that James said, and the reason I wanna go back to James, is because James gives us a word picture that really helps me.
This puts it in perspective and maybe this is gritty enough and earthy enough to where, maybe this is terminology you can began to use as you think about your own battle and your own struggle. Here’s what James says, this is so powerful, “But each person”, that’s all of us, “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away.” This is so visual. This is a picture of somebody that’s trying to do the right thing. They’re trying to embrace what is really, really, really important, what they really want and something comes along and drags them away.
That’s the battle. That’s where we all live, that’s the struggle. That’s valuable versus natural. They’re dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. That is, they knew what they wanted, but they get dragged away. “Then he came along and dragged me away.” Then she came along and I let her drag me away.” “And this opportunity came along and it dragged me away.” “Then I got too busy at work and it dragged me away.” “Then that old habit raised its ugly head and it dragged me away.” And then he says, “Then after desire”, the imagery is so powerful, “Then after desire has conceived, then after desire is conceived, it gives birth. Then after desire grows and conceives, it gives birth to sin. And sin when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” That is sin ultimately kills stuff. Sin ultimately undermines the future. Sin ultimately undermines the way we see ourselves, to where we come to the place where we say, “You know what? I do not know why I do what I do. I do not know why I do what I do. I’m starting to hate myself.”
And then James ends where I want to end today. He looks out across his audience that he’s writing and he’s imagining these people and the people he’ll never meet and the children he’ll never meet and the places this letter’s going to go that he can’t imagine. I mean, imagine it’s 2,000 years ago, he’s sitting somewhere with a candle or a lamp, or maybe sitting outside writing this. And here we are 2,000 years later, halfway around the world reading it. That’s staggering, but he had a general audience in mind and it’s so applicable to us today. He ends this by saying, “Don’t be deceived.” I love this, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” You know why it says this? Because he knows how easily deceived we are.
He knows how easily distracted we are with what we want and we forget what we ultimately want, what we really want. It’s like he’s reaching across 2,000 years of human nature and he’s grabbing each of us by the collar, saying, “Don’t be deceived. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be deceived. Come on, come on, come on. Don’t be deceived. Don’t trade ultimate for immediate. And don’t trade ultimately want for naturally want.” He’s saying, “Students, don’t be deceived. College students, don’t be deceived. Fraternity, sorority members, don’t be deceived Men, women, who are traveling. Don’t be deceived. Men and women struggling in your marriage, starting to look around, something starting to drag you away.”
He’s going, “Don’t be deceived. Do not trade ultimate for immediate. Do not trade valuable for natural, because nothing is gonna help you. This is between you and your Heavenly Father. This is up to you. Don’t be deceived.”
So last weekend, after I did the first part of this series, a gentleman walked up to me after one of the presentations and he said a couple of really nice things and then he said this, and this was nice as well, this wasn’t like and then he lowered the boom. He said, this was so kind and I don’t think anyone has ever said this. He said, “Andy.” He said, “You know, you keep coming up with all this new stuff all the time.” He said, “What drives you?” That was his question, what drives you? And I’ll tell you what drives me. This right here. Because nothing breaks my heart, you may feel the same way, I’m not elevating myself. This is just me. Nothing breaks my heart more than men and women and students and children, and high school students and college students making decisions that undermine their own future. That simply do what they don’t want to do that keeps them from getting where they want to be. It breaks my heart and here, part of it’s this, because there’s enough things in life we have no control over.
I mean, there’s gonna be enough bad stuff that you have no control over. There are gonna be things that make it very difficult for you in your marriage that you have no control over, very difficult for you to graduate, you have no control over. There’s plenty of things in life that we have no control over, so why in the world would we undermine our own future by opting for what comes natural over what we ultimately value? And when I see people do that, I just think, “Oh, that just breaks my heart.” This really is what drives me, and it’s why I say all the time and I believe with all my heart, whether you’re a Christian or not, following Jesus will make your life better, and it will make you better at life because Jesus will point you to ultimate and point you past immediate. And Jesus will point you to valuable, not simply natural. And this is why I follow… Even if your not even sure you’re, what if the whole Jesus is the son of God thing? Just take a baby step, just begin to do it. Jesus invited every single person in the first century to do, “Just follow me, follow me, follow me.”
And the other thing that lights me up about this is I just wanna get in front of [chuckle] everybody who’s walked away from the church or has turned their backs on Christianity, and say, “Look, you don’t understand. Christianity is not some kinda buzz-kill, are you kidding me? Christianity is God the Father, God the Father stepping into human history to point us to something beyond our broken intuition and our misguided inclination.”
It’s the best thing, it’s the best of the best things. And yeah, we believe in heaven, and yeah, we believe in eternity, but beyond all that, following Jesus, following Jesus will make your life better. And to make sure I’m not misunderstood, I’m certainly not immune, I’m not like the master teacher who’s got this all worked out, and so I just like to run around, tell everybody else how to live their lives. To use James’ imagery, to use his words, every day, every day of my life, just like every day of your life, every single day I have to resist being dragged away. But as many of you know, it is worth the battle. It is worth the price that’s paid. It is worth it to fix our eyes on something that goes beyond what we want in the here and now.
So, what do you really, really want? What is most important to you? And do you keep being dragged away from what you actually want by what you naturally want?
So here’s what I want you to do. Between now and the next time we get together, I would love for you to take a few minutes and answer three questions. And here are the questions. And the first one you could’ve guessed, what do you really want? That’s it. Now you say, “Well, I want a Ford F-150, and I want… Actually, I want the Raptor, and I want a garage big enough to park it in. Okay, that’s what I really want.” That’s fine, I hope you get one, I hope you get three, okay, give me a ride, that’s awesome. But why is that what you want? Come on, come on, come on, what do you really want? “Well, if I could just get married.” Marriage is an awesome thing, but what do you really want? Come on, what do you really want?
And then the second question is this, what keeps dragging you away? ‘Cause you gotta get it fixed in your mind, you hear a message like this, or you read a book, or somebody sits down, tells their story and you kinda clear your head and you get all… It’s like, “You know what? You’re right, you’re right, you’re right. I need to readjust, I need to make some changes.” Come on, what keeps dragging you away? And let me say something about this question, okay? This is just between you and you, or you and God. So this is the time to be honest, this is the question that you won’t answer honestly to your parents, perhaps. This is a question you won’t answer honestly to your husband or your wife, ’cause your wife keeps saying, “You know, honey, I really think you need to get rid of this, ’cause it’s hurting you”, and you’ve got 25 reasons why it’s not hurting you. Or you’re saying to her, “You know what, I really think we need to sell this. I really think you need to watch this”, and you’ve got 25 reasons why it’s not a problem.” So this isn’t between and anybody but you, but come on, here’s the time to be honest. What keeps reaching up and dragging you away?
And then the third question, it’s a very strange question, okay, I’ll own that. How long, how long, or how much longer? How long do I plan to let what I naturally want drag me away from what I ultimately want? How much longer? Another season of your life? Another five years? Another three years? Another 10 years? Another marriage? How long? Come on, how long do you plan to let what you naturally want drag you away from what you ultimately want? I want you to sit down and answer those questions, and then come back next week, tune back in next week. Look up here. Would you spend some time discovering what is most important to you?