ICON ● Part 2 | "Losing Influence"

Ever find yourself scrambling to maintain your status or influence? What if there was a better way to experience power and transformation in your life?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

Today, we're in Part 2 of our series. you knew this before you got here, before you tuned in, the cross is the icon for Christianity. For most modern Christians, the cross basically represents a way of believing, but in the first century, the cross represented something else, it represented a way of living, a lifestyle, and the cross was actually an invitation, an invitation to an alternative way of life, alternative but not intuitive. In fact, to outsiders looking in at this different way of living, in fact, maybe to you looking out from the outside into this different way of living.

It just seems foolish. In fact, the author of half the New Testament, that's the word he's gonna use we're gonna look at it in just a minute. He says, from the outside looking in the invitation of the cross the way of the cross, the way of Jesus, it is foolish. It's crazy. In fact, you might even chuck it off as lazy because it's an invitation that's so contrary to our nature that we are tempted to decline the invitation, as we said last time, every single day, because every single day, if you are a Jesus follower or if you're a Christian, you are invited every single day to follow the way or embrace the way of the cross is an invitation. And you get to choose whether or not you do it even as someone has placed their faith in Jesus as savior.

And if you're not a Christian or you're sort of anti-Christian, or you're still trying to figure it out, you are standing on the outside of our faith tradition, which is fine, and you're looking in and this way of life that we're gonna talk about, if it strikes you as crazy, lazy, or just foolish, the good news is you're not alone in your estimation, because again, the gentleman who wrote half the New Testament, that's the word he uses to describe it. Now, the challenging thing is that I'm convinced it's just... No scientific method here, just my opinion. I'm convinced that a lot of Christians don't even know this invitation to the way of the cross even exists for them, and maybe for you, because of your Christian faith tradition, for them, maybe for you, Christianity is kind of like a one and done, right? I prayed a prayer and asked Jesus to come into my heart, and then I was baptized or I went through a class, so now Jesus is my Savior, or to quote Crawford Loritts. I love this statement, he says, For a lot of people, for a lot of Christians, Jesus is a point of reference.

Oh yeah, I put a check in that box. Oh yeah, I'm a Christian. Oh yeah, I was baptized. I prayed a sinner's prayer. So for many Christians, Jesus is my Savior, and the cross is my good luck charm. The cross is just a reminder to other people that, Oh yeah, I'm one of those people, I'm one of those Christians, because I accept that Jesus. Jesus is my Savior, and I have a cross, and the cross is my good luck charm. Now, let's get back to the real world. Let's get back to living, let's get back to the stuff of life, to use the phrase that Solomon coined in the Old Testament, let's get back to chasing after the wind, a race with no finish line. A race where we grade ourselves and compare ourselves to other people who are chasing after the wind. People who in many cases aren't paying any attention to us, even though we are competing mentally with them. It's the way of life that fuels... And again, we've all been there, or are there, it's a way of life chasing after the wind is a way of life that fuels discontentment. And the thing is this, discontentment leaks, it leaks on to your family, it leaks on to your direct reports, it leaks into your friendships, discontentment communicates to the people around you, and you may not even know this is going on, but it is. Discontentment is if people begin to feel like they're competing with our quest for something that might not include them.

As we said last time, ambition and achievement, these are good things. These are God-given things. This is a reflection of the image of God in you. It is in us to be ambitious and to get things done, just like it was with our Heavenly Father. We were born to take things that are chaotic and to bring order. These are good things. These are God-given things, but if you hand these two things, the reigns of your life, they wear you down and they wear you out. There are good things, but they are poor masters. And if you're a Christian, you already have a master. We already have a master whose icon is not the checkered flag, is not a trophy, and it's not a crown, the icon for our master is the symbol of suffering and shame and loss, our icon is the cross, and the cross serves as an invitation. And as we're gonna see today it serves as an empowering invitation, an invitation to live for the approval of one, rather than living for the approval of everyone. To live according to the agenda of the one, rather than the ever-changing, ever shifting agenda of the culture that we live in and work in and play in and go to school in, every single day.

So last time we were together, I gave you a frustrating assignment, if you weren't here, the assignment was, hey, when you find yourself this week at odds with someone at work or at school or at home, there's a conflict, there's tension, to ask yourself not act on it because it's too risky, but to at least ask yourself as you're in that conflict, you're going back and forth or considering how you're gonna respond. What would choosing to lose look like in this situation?

What would choosing to lose look like in this situation? What would choosing not to win, not to win the discussion, not to win the argument? What would it look like to let them pull ahead, have their way? And in many instances, this is just too terrifying to do, it's just so an American doesn't fit, your temperament doesn't fit, the way you're wired doesn't fit the way you operate, it's not the way. In fact, it's not the way things get accomplished, it's not the way of the world, and so you can say no because the cross is an invitation. So you don't have to accept the invitation, in fact, you will be tempted, I will be tempted every single day not to accept the invitation of the way of the cross. Most Christians, I'm afraid, don't accept that invitation, that's why we look collectively, that's why we act collectively, and mostimportantly, it's why it seems Christians react like everybody else.

Now, as I said last time, the person who understood this and had the greatest clarity around the contrast between the way of the world and the way of the cross is the Apostle Paul. And the reason he had such extraordinary clarity, if you know his story is this, that he was a professional striver in his pre-Jesus days, he was a professional striver. He actually prided himself, which is so strange, he documents this himself, this isn't what people said about him, this is what he said about himself, he prided himself as the Best In Class Pharisee of the first century. And then... And this is why he's so helpful to us, then he meets Jesus personally, and in a matter of moments, not weeks and years, in a matter of moments, he has clarity around the contrast between the way of the kingdoms of this world, which is all anyone ever knew and all he ever knew, and the way of Jesus and His clarity fueled his passion to take the message of Jesus all around the Greek- speaking world, all around the Mediterranean realm.

He realized that Jesus was not an add on. The cross was not a good luck charm, it was a way of life. And not just a way of life, it was the opposite way of life, it was against the grain, in almost every component, every facet, in a way, the way of the cross was an invitation to join the losers club, because by every first century measure, Jesus lost. Jesus lost on purpose with a purpose, and the purpose included you and included me. And he says Now, I want you to come follow me, and if you do it enough, if enough of you do, we will change the world and we will change the culture of the world. So when the Apostle Paul introduces this whole idea of the way of the cross to a group of Greek-speaking, educated striving men and women in Corinth, he acknowledges right up front what he knew they were gonna think when they heard about this crazy idea, this crazy way of life.

Maybe the thing that you've already started thinking about, just based on what I've said so far. Here's what he said, he said, don't be shocked, I get it. I know where you're coming from, common ground, for the message of the cross, I'll admit. It's foolishness. It's crazy and some backwards, it's lazy. It just doesn't line up with anything that you've ever done or anything maybe you've ever even seen before, the way of the cross is foolishness, and now he's gonna tell us who sees it as foolish and who doesn't. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are... And I know we're getting a little grammatical here, present participle... We're gonna see another present participle in just a minute, all the English teachers sat up straight... Yeah, okay. Present participle, those who are perishing, that the message of the cross or the way of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

To those who are fading away. To those who assume that all there is to life is this life, to those who assume that what you see is all that you can possibly get and when it's over, it's over. Who assume that this life is all there is, and yet in spite of that, they cling to the life that they've made for themselves, they cling to the things that are perishing or the things that are fading as if they can stop the inevitable, because the cross and the way of the cross and this is where it's challenging for me and challenging for you, the way of the cross represents everything, those who are perishing resist, it represents their greatest fear, fading away, falling behind, becoming less and less and less relevant.

But here's the point he's about to make, his point is this, that scrambling to reclaim and maintain what can't ultimately be reclaimed and maintained, that scrambling and working and chasing after the wind to reclaim and to maintain what can't be reclaimed and maintained that's what's foolish, not the message or the way of the cross.

Here's what he says, he says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being, another present participle, and those of us who are being saved. Not a one and done, I pray to salvation. Prayer, I'm good to go." He says, "No, for those of us who are being saved," in other words, those of us who are in the process of renewing our minds, of growing in our faith, of growing in our understanding of giving a little bit and a little bit, and a little bit more of our lives away, learning how to follow Jesus, learning what it looks like to follow Jesus and what I'm gonna have to do differently to follow Jesus, he says, "To those of us who are in the process of embracing the way of the cross of being saved, it... " This is so amazing, it.

The message of the cross, it, the message of the cross, ready for this, this is the point of our few minutes together today, it, the message of the cross, the way of the cross is the power of God. Here's what he's saying, that God's power begins to work in and through us, when we embrace the way and the message of the cross. That God's power has the potential then to show up and manifest itself through our daily meager lives, when we get in sync with the way of Jesus or the way of the cross. The invitation, when we say yes to the invitation of the cross, and we say yes to the invitation to stop chasing what can't be caught, the invitation to stop clinging to what can't be kept. This is how we are personally real-time, real world transformed, it's how we, and this is what I talk about all the time, it's what I want us to get. It's how we begin to participate in the kingdom of God right now, not heaven some day, one day, to participate in the kingdom of God right now.

But Paul is saying, and he's gonna say it in a little different way in just a minute, you can't do that if you're chasing after the wind, you can't do that if you wear a cross and put a check in, I love Jesus box, and then join the fray and join the race that doesn't have a finish line and doesn't bring about anything that lasts, anyway, you can't do it that way. Nothing changes. It's how you participate in the Kingdom of God and experience the power of God. The power of God that you see demonstrated every once in a while, it's the stop and stare power of God like, wait a minute, wait, wait, woah, woah, woah she forgave them. Who does that? Wait, wait, wait. He decided to give to them in spite of what they took from Him, Are you kidding me, the stop and stare contrary to culture, power of God, when you see it, you recognize it in the strange thing is this, when people of any faith tradition or no faith traditions see it, they stop and they stare, it's why it changed the world in the 1st century, because these Jesus followers took this seriously.

The way of the cross wasn't represented by a single decision, it was represented in daily decisions to embrace the way of Jesus, and because they did, they manifested the power of God, invisible ways that the way of the cross is where change begins. It's because the way of the cross is when we begin to live in sync with the life of Jesus and we live in sync with the spirit of Jesus, what the New Testament refers to as the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the Spirit that produces through us what we will never produce ourselves as long as we're chasing the wind, you can't have it both ways, Christian or not, the spirit that produces through us, we're gonna talk about in a minute, what we can't produce ourselves as long as we're chasing the wind, because as long as you're chasing the wind, I'm chasing the wind. I'm striving, I'm competing, I'm comparing and the Spirit of God and our Savior, since back it says, "That's not how we do it. That's not the kingdom of God, that doesn't change anything. And it all fades and it all goes away."

And what does this new way produce?. The list was the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Christians living in the Roman province of Galatia. He gives him a list of, hey, when you surrender to the Spirit of God, when you surrender to the way of the cross, when you surrender to the way of Jesus, here's what's gonna be manifested in you. He says, it's the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of good behavior in order to get the date, not the fruit of good behavior in order to do well in the interview, we all know how to do that, the fruit of the Spirit is a response to the world around us that causes people to stop and stare because it is so other-worldly.

He says, this fruit of the Spirit is love, and joy and peace, patience and kindness. We talk about this all the time, kindness, you know what kindness is, kindness is, I'm gonna loan you my strength rather than remind you of your weakness. We live in a world that's constantly reminding you of your weakness, and that Jesus followers come along and say, I'm not gonna talk about your weakness, just gonna loan you my strength. Patience. You know what patience is. Patience, is I let you set the pace and then I walk at your pace, I don't say, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on. Do you know what these are actually? These are all responses. So you don't get up to my morning, go out and say, "Today, I'm gonna be patient." We gotta wait and see. Patience is a response. I'm gonna have self-control, you know what self-control is? It's a response, it's a response to win.

You wanna control somebody else and you realize, "Oh no, I've embraced the way of the cross, I don't control other people." I surrender to the Spirit of God to control myself. I don't control outcomes, I'm gonna allow the Spirit of God to control, these are all responses. And do you know what these responses require? Power not weakness.

Impatience, weakness. Unkindness, weakness. Unfaithfulness, weakness. Not gonna be good. 'cause you don't deserve it, weakness. You see, this isn't weak, this isn't passive. This is extraordinary. This is the power of God through you, through me, not because we run it up, but because we lay it down. Two verses later, he says this to the same group, he says, look, since the same the apostle Paul, again, since we live by the Spirit, since God placed His Holy Spirit in you as a pledge of the fact that you belong to God, since you live, since you have eternal life because of the spirit, he's like, "Come on, let's do the next reasonable logical thing. Let's keep in step with the Spirit." In other words, this is an invitation to live in a different direction. When salvation, when your salvation is just a one and done, but you don't embrace the way of the cross or the way of Jesus, we don't embrace the way the cross or the way of Jesus you know what happens? We don't experience the power of God and collectively.

Do you know what that means as a church, when the church doesn't get this right? It means we don't make a dent, and we don't make a difference, and people look at the church like, "Looking at the church in America right now, just to be honest. They just look at the church from the outside and they conclude, in fact, if you're not a Christian or not a believer. You're gonna love this next part. Okay, you're applaud. This may be your favorite part of any sermon you've ever heard before, they just look at us and they conclude that Christianity is just another religion, it's just a religious cover for a group of people who want things their way, they notice that we use the same strategy and tactics as everybody else to get our way.

Because once the church, once the body of Jesus embraces the strategies and tactics of the kingdoms of this world, we have already lost. Back to what Paul said to the group in Corinth, this is amazing, he taunts them, he says this, I love this, hey, so where are the wise people, come on, he says show me the wise people, where are the wise people, 'cause he's talking to this group, but they're in Corinth, they're very educated, very sophisticated, he got all this cool rhetoric notes, it's very cosmopolitan said. He's like, Oh, come on, come on, you don't wanna do the way of Jesus, because it's two counter culture, you don't wanna do the way of Jesus because it won't work, you wanna chase the wind, so tell me show me the wise people. Amazing. And then he says, this is so good. Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? Translated; Hey, haven't you seen enough? Haven't you lived long enough to know it doesn't work? That the predominant way isn't the way, show me the wise people, he says, the predominant way isn't the way, because the predominant way with the predominant way, everything eventually slips away. Come on.

Make it super practical. Haven't we attended enough funerals to know what really matters, what really gets celebrated, what's worth celebrating at a funeral, Do we celebrate winning at a funeral or serving? Achievement or character? What they clung to or what they gave away? What they fought to preserve, or their willingness to fight for the rights and the benefit of others?

See, we celebrate selflessness in those moments, we realize that the value of a life, that the value of a life is always measured by how much of it was given away. And Paul says, so show me the wise people out there chasing the wind, what do they have to show for it? Nothing he says, "You think the message and the way of the cross is foolish? That's foolish. You should follow Jesus and embrace the way of the cross, it is the way that it's saturated with what really matters, what really counts, and what really lasts. And you're smart enough to know it when you see it, 'cause you've celebrated it, and you're smart enough to see it and culture, when somebody just works against decides against the grain and their story stands out in contrast to everybody else's story." The others, first the way of the cross isn't foolish, we are the fools, we’re the fools. Because we're so easily confused and so easily baited away from it. We know better. Our problem is, we're afraid to live better, we're afraid to commit to it, and I understand why because nobody else around us is, everybody else is chasing the wind, so we just run along with them, except we pray.

Dear Lord, help me to win the race, where's the finish line? I don't know, it's just everybody's running that way, so I'm running with them, I have a cross and I have Jesus in my backpack me and God, you know I got a Bible. Jesus is like, "Hey, wrong race, I appreciate your faith and I appreciate you inviting me into the circumstances, it's just the wrong race." So let me just ask you this, and we're gonna wrap this up, and this is kind of a crazy silly question. It's rhetorical. Do you wanna experience the power of God in your life? Oh, yeah. Four of you do. Good, that's good.


I think the online audience, they really, they want it. But four of you do. So here's how to think about this. We're gonna wrap it up. Okay, this is important. When, this is when I got to this part, preparing the thing that came to mind, I asked this questions. Here's the question, When was the power of God most evident in the life of Jesus our Savior, who came to explain what God is like? Two things came to my mind. The power of God was most evident when Jesus did his miracles. But who are those for? Do you know he never leveraged his power for his own benefit?

In fact, it was so much for everybody's, other people's benefit, His power, His demonstrations of power were actually used against him at his trial When is the other time Jesus manifested the power of God Golgotha, the hill, where he died, we would have been most horrified the moment, God was most glorified, we, in our kingdoms of this world way of thinking, we would have looked away, we would have gone inside because the smell on that hill would be enough to drive you away. The ultimate loss was the ultimate expression of God's power. Do you want to experience the power of God in your life? By losing, he won...

And don't be confused, I talked about this last week. I'm gonna probably say this every time, look, this is not an invitation to being passive, or just folding our arms and being lazy where God is just gonna work, uh-uh, follow Jesus through the gospels, follow the Apostle Paul through the Book of Acts, this is not about this. The way of the cross, this is so important, the way of the cross is an invitation for you to leverage your talent and your opportunities to their full potential for the glory of your King, who loves you and invites you to follow him against the grain. But the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are perishing, Paul says, "Okay, how's it working for you? Show me the wisdom, show me the wise person." But to those of us who are being saved in the process of transformation, the message of the cross is the power of God. So I'm gonna frustrate you a little bit, we're just gonna leave it there.

And if I were you, I'm thinking, okay, wait, wait, wait. I'm not arguing with you, I just don't understand. I don't know what that looks like? What does this mean? Losing, and I can't answer that question for you personally, but here's a bread crumb, this week, when theres conflict, and you got there first, but they say they did, and it was your idea, but they say it was theirs, and they're fussing and griping in the... In the middle of that with just school, work, home. Just ask yourself, you don't have to do anything yet, just consider, let's take this as far as we can mentally, what we're choosing to lose look like in this situation.

And again, I can't tell you exactly what it'll look like, but I know what this represents in that moment, you're ready for this. This is so amazing. In that moment, it represents an opportunity. It represents an opportunity for the power of God to be demonstrated in you.

Up Next