Making the world a better place means giving up time, money, and opportunities. But what if that’s the only way to live a life of purpose and meaning?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
We are in the third part of this series, Re:Solution because the beginning of the year is when we make ourselves better. And we ask this question, or maybe you didn’t ask it this way. But essentially, the first of the year question is, “What should I do about me? How do I make me better? How do I get slimmer? How do I get stronger? How do I get smarter? How do I get my family out of debt? How do I make sure that my kids are moving in the right direction?” But we’ve said throughout this series that there is a bigger, broader question, a question that goes way beyond us. And the question is, “What needs to be done around me?” Not just, “What do I need to do for me?” But, “What needs to be done around me?”
Because if you really want to become a better person, do something to make your world a better place. Whether it’s your neighborhood, your community, maybe you have the potential to make the world, or a slice of the world a better place. And the question that really has kind of gripped us emotionally, that’s driven us through this series, that we capture from that first message from the Book of Nehemiah, was this question, “What breaks your heart?” If you want to know what to do with you, if you want to know what to do outside of you, if you want to do something beyond your family and your grandkids and your marriage to impact the world, then you answer this question, “What breaks your heart?” Because a lot of things disturb you, and a lot of things disturb me.
But every once in a while, and we’re praying that for all of us… Every once in a while you hear a story or you see a trend in culture, maybe in your community, maybe in your city, maybe in our state, maybe in our country, maybe somewhere else in the world, and it grips your heart. And it’s more than just a news item. In fact, you’ve gone online to find out more about it. You read that article twice. When this subject comes up, you’ve gotten familiar with the details of this issue in the world. And you wonder, “Why does this bother me? Why does this bother me?” But part of your heart just goes there. And so you’ve discovered, or you’re beginning to discover the answer to this question, “What breaks your heart?” Now the problem with this question, we said last week, this is a dangerous question because once you answer it, and once you decide to do something about it, it’s gonna cost you. It’s gonna require something of you. It’s gonna require some time, it’s gonna require some money. It’s gonna require some missed opportunity. It may even distract a little bit from what you’re doing with your family.
Because once you discover what breaks your heart and once you step out into the great unknown, even though you’re not super resourced, even though you’re not super connected, even though you don’t think you can really make a big difference, but you’re thinking, “I’m gonna make a little bit of a difference.” Immediately you’re gonna feel that tension of, “But this is gonna cost me. This is gonna distract me from the things that I’ve focused my life on. Because what it’s gonna cost you is just that. It’s gonna cost you some life. And as we said last week, we are all by nature, me included, what? We are life preservers. I don’t wanna give up my life. I don’t wanna give away my life. And then to the rescue Jesus came along, as we said last week, and he taught us this. He said, “Whoever devotes themselves to themselves, will have nothing but themselves to show for themselves.” And that’s disturbing. Because you don’t want to get to the end of your life and have maintained the perfect weight, and the perfect schedule, and you never went in debt, but you never did anything for anybody else because at the end of your life, you will have leveraged your life for nothing but you and Jesus says that is a total loss.
But then He flipped it around He said, “But if you devote yourself to more than yourself, you will have more than yourself to show for yourself.” And I think there is something in all of us that kind of light us up. To think that we can get to the end of our lives and people would line up and thank us for something very specific. And I cast that vision to you last week. “What would you like people to line up at the end of your life and thank you for?” And if you know the answer to that question, you have begun to discover what it is that really has captured or breaks your heart. Now, most of what we’ve said in the series so far really applies to everybody.
This isn’t a religious thing, this is just a thing thing, this is just a people thing. But if you are a Christian, there is a slice of this that is very, very, very important for you and very important for me to understand. So, today here is what I wanna do, I just wanna pick on us Christians a little bit alright? And if you are not a Christian, you are not a church goer, or somebody made you watch this, I don’t know how you become a part of this, you’re gonna love this message because you gonna be able to sit back and say, “Yep, yep, yep, in fact, Andy, that’s exactly why I don’t go to church, yep. That’s exactly why I don’t like Christians, that’s why I don’t wanna do business with Christians, and I don’t want my children to marry any Christians. You’ve hit on it. That’s exactly what the problem is.”
Because we as Christians, if we are not careful, and this is true of all religions but let’s just talk about us girls for a second. We as Christians, okay? We have a tendency, if we are not careful, to substitute devotion for action, to substitute devotion, the vertical, for action, the horizontal. In other words, if we are not careful, we are so content to believe, and so content to believe all the right things that we think, “You know what, I believe Jesus is the son of God, I believe he rose from the dead, I believe the New Testament, I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe all the things I was taught to believe. So me and God are good because I believe all the right things.” But then you open… Actually open up the New Testament, and ask yourself, “Am I really following Jesus?” And suddenly, you discover, as we’re gonna discover today, that believing is not enough. Now this isn’t a sermon or a message about how to become a Christian or how to stay a Christian. This is about what would it look like if you decided instead of simply being categorically a Christian, you stepped out and decided to follow Jesus, because when you decide to actually follow Jesus, personal devotion is not enough and belief is not enough.
But believers are often content to believe something rather than do something. So, I thought maybe we should quit calling ourselves “believers” and call ourselves “doers”. In fact, that’s exactly what James said. That’s exactly what Jesus taught. He said, “If you hear these words of mine and don’t do anything with them, you are like a foolish man who built his house on the sand and when the storm came, the whole thing fell down.” Unfortunately, maybe this is just my past or the tradition I grew in because it’s the tradition grew up in. Sometimes we are way more content with simply making a point than making a difference. And we as Christians are really good at making a point, aren’t we? We are really good at shaking our fingers at a screen. We are really good at shaking our fingers at culture. We are good at shaking our fingers about all the things that are wrong in the world. And kids don’t ever, and honey don’t ever, and people will just listen at that. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. And we make point, after point, after point, after point. But as we are about to discover, if all you do, and if all we do is make points and don’t make a difference, we are not good Christians.
So today, I wanna take you to one of the most familiar passages in the entire New Testament. In fact those of you who are married, chances are they were verses from this chapter of the Bible read in your wedding. Not the ones we are about to look at, because they’re so disturbing the ones that came right after. Okay, all the lovey-dovey stuff. First Corinthians chapter 13, written by the apostle Paul. Paul was such an important figure in the history of Christiandom.
One of the reasons that I take the New Testament seriously, and take the Bible seriously, and taking Christianity seriously is this, check this out, Paul was from this area, the Holy Land, we call it the “Holy Land”, Jerusalem. And just a few years after the death of Jesus, just really a few years after Jesus was crucified, next thing you know there are Jesus followers and churches all the way up here in Rome, Philippi, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonika, all these major port cities, suddenly there are Churches cropping up. There are people who are Jesus followers and they are not Jews.
And the reason is, is because the Apostle Paul decided, “It is not enough to believe this, I gotta do something with it.” And he got on his ship that most of you wouldn’t go more that two or 300 yards on much less cross the Mediterranean sea, visited all of these port cities, planted all of these churches and then wrote them letters to encourage them as time went by. So First Corinthians is actually called First Corinthians because it was a letter written to the church in Corinth. The Second Corinthians because he wrote another letter. First Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says some extraordinarily disturbing things. So, if you’re a Christian, and you are not disturbed by the end of the message, I have not been clear because these are very, very disturbing, disconcerting words.
If you’re not a Christian, you gotta love this because this is the reason you resist Christianity, I guarantee you, or at least it’s part of it. So, in First Corinthians 13, he has just finished in the previous chapters talking about giftedness, and by giftedness he’s really kind of talking about personality traits or the things that God allows a person to be good at versus other things they’re not so good at. And then he addresses those of us who think that God is impressed with devotion that doesn’t have any motion. Okay? He addresses those of us who basically think that God is all impressed with what we know as opposed to what we do. And so he says in these verses… Look, in case you have to leave early, here it is: Put some motion in your devotion. I think we should write a song about that, right? He says, “Look, Christian, it is not enough to believe. You’ve gotta do something with what you know. Otherwise… ” And what he says on the other side of the “otherwise” is what’s so disturbing. And I’ll just read it to you. Here’s what he says.
He says, “If I… ” and he says “I’, but he’s really talking about you because he’s trying to soft sell this because it’s so offensive. So instead of saying, “if you” he says “if I”, but he’s talking about you and me. “If I speak in the tongues,” and this Greek word really just means languages, “If I speak in the languages of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Now, what he’s talking about here… He says, “Look, if I had this supernatural ability to speak in multiple different and multiple languages so people from different parts of the world could understand me because I could speak in their language, and it was a supernatural gift… ‘ ‘Cause he’s just finished talking about giftedness. He said, “Let’s take it a bit further because this whole passage is a bit of hyperbole.”
He said, “Let’s say that I actually understood the language of angels. Not only can I speak to people from different parts of the world in their language without even studying their language, let’s say that I was so good I could talk to the angels in angel language.” To which we would say, “Paul, do angels even have a language?” To which he would say, “I have no idea.” Okay? This is an illustration. I’m just saying, if there was such thing as angel language, even if I had the ability to converse with the angels… That you would hear Paul talking and you would say, “Who are you talking to?” “He’s talking to the angels.”
Now, we lock people up that do that, but Paul’s saying, “Let ‘s just pretend that I was so… ” Here’s his point. “Let’s imagine that I was so connected to God that God gave me the ability to speak multiple languages and he even taught me, or I was even enabled to to speak to angels in angel language, but if I don’t have love… ” And this is that Greek word “agape” we’ve heard before. It’s love that’s sort of action… Not sort of, but it’s that action-oriented love. It’s the other-centered love. It’s the doing love. It’s the love where you actually do something instead of just sit on it. He says, “If I had this extraordinary connection with God… but I don’t do something as it relates to loving other people, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I’m just a bunch of noise.” To which we’d say, “Wait a minute, Paul. How can you say that?” To which he would say, and he’s about to say, “Because if there’s no love for others, then it’s all about me.” To which we say, “So Paul, are you discounting the importance of devotion to God?” He’s saying, “No, what I’m discounting is stopping there. What I’m discounting is trying to measure your devotion to God by this vertical thing and ignoring the horizontal thing.”
Then he goes on. “And if I have the gift of prophecy, and can fathom all mysteries, and all knowledge… ” In other words, he says, “And even if you’re one of those Christians who’s got it all figured out. ‘There’s a verse for that. There’s a verse for that. There’s a verse for that’… ” “Okay, honey, shh. I got it, I got it. There’s a verse for that.” Right? I know the pastor’s got a verse for that. If you’re one of those people who, you study and study and study, and you’ve got it all figured out. Somebody says John 11, you say Lazarus. I mean, you’ve just got it all figured out. You know the Old Testament, The New Testament, The Charge, and Daniel, and the Book of Revelation, and Jesus, and the colors of the horses. I mean, you just know it all. If anybody wants to know anything about God and the Bible and Jesus and Christianity, you are the Bible answer woman or the answer man.
Paul says, “Even if you are so educated and knowledgeable that you can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge” to which he said, “Now, wait, wait, wait. You’re not gonna say that’s not important are you?” Paul says, “No, I’m not saying it’s not important. I’m just saying if you stop with that, it’s still all about you. And if I have faith that can move mountains… ” This is the person or sometimes the leader or the pastor who is sure that they’re sure, that they’re sure, that they’re right. And they can pitch their voice in such a way that everyone pays attention to whatever they say, sounds like it’s coming from the mouth of God.
Amen! Woo! And they’re just so confident, and you listen to them and you think, “They’re so confident, they have to be right.” And then Paul says, “Look, even if I have faith that can move mountains,” which means this is the person or the people… They are so confident that they know what God wants that we just sit back and say, “If you’re sure that’s what God wants, I’m sure that’s what God wants because clearly, God speaks to you in a way that God doesn’t speak to me.” Paul says, “Even if you are that person that you can move God, but do not have love… ” Now, wait, wait Paul, wait, hold on. Whoa, Whoa. Are you saying this isn’t important? Paul’s going, “No, I’m not saying it’s not important. I’m just saying it’s incomplete.” I mean, you may be the most mystically minded, God experienced person, or the most Biblically knowledgeable or both… And you may be a person that when you get up and speak and stand and lead, people are confident because your faith in God is so stinkin’ big, everybody just latches onto it and just goes in the direction you want them to go. Paul says, “Even if you’re that man or that woman, but it does not express itself in unconditional, servant-oriented, others-oriented love… ” Now this is the offensive part. He says, “You are… ” But he’s soft selling it, so he says, “I am nothing.” A little Greek word, ” [Greek (oothen)].” Let’s say [Greek (oothen)].
“You know what you are?” He says, “You are [Greek (oothen)].” You may be the Bible answer man, the Bible answer woman. You may pray prayers that are just spellbinding, and you may be the most ferocious, faith-filled leader in the world, but if you don’t have love, you’re [Greek (oothen)]. You’re nobody. It’s meaningless. It’s no good because it doesn’t do anybody any good. Going back to last week, you lack purpose because your experience isn’t enough. Your knowledge isn’t enough, and then in this next section, he says, “And not even your demonstrations, your public demonstrations of religion, are enough to move God.”
He says, “Hey Christians, if you are content in making a point, but never make a difference, do not think for a moment your Heavenly Father is impressed with you. You are not a good Jesus follower.” Then he goes like off the chart hyperbole, just like crazy, crazy. He says, “And if I give all I possess to the poor… ” To which you’re going, “Okay, now this is a good thing.” Eh, you look into it, not so much. This isn’t habitual tithing or percentage giving or “give throughout my life”. He says, “No. Let’s say that I go out and do something monumental, with trumpets and fanfare, brochures and ‘Come and see and come and watch.’ If I do something like big and demonstrative, like I’m gonna give everything I have to the poor. Did you hear about Paul? Did you hear about Paul? He went down to the capital. He just gave everything. Did you hear about Paul? Because once again, the emphasis is on the giver, not the receiver. “If I give all that I possess to the poor,” and then to make his point, he goes completely outside the realm of reality, “and give over my body to hardship that I may boast… “
And there’s a little Greek think going on here. Your translation may say, “And if I give my body to be burned.” But when you put it altogether, here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying, “Let’s say, first of all, I give away everything I have to the poor, and then I’m not satisfied. Let’s say then I sell myself into slavery, and when they give me the money for me, I give that away too.” It’s like “Wow!” I mean, in other words, if I am the most demonstratively generous person in the history of generosity, I sold myself into slavery so I could give more money away. I mean, like a big, bodacious, big, giant demonstration of religion. “But I do not have love, I gain nothing.” Different Greek word, [Greek (ooden)]. He says, ” No matter what you do, no matter what you know and no matter what you’ve experienced, if there is not some part of you where you are wading into the messiness of other people to help other people you are [Greek ooden and oothen]. You are nothing and you are worthless and your faith has no value because it’s all about you.”
I mean, even if you’re the most disciplined person in the world, raising your family, doing all the stuff right. Paul says, “Yeah, but isn’t that still for you? Isn’t that still about you and your kids and your grandkids and your family? Don’t stop doing any of that stuff, but if it stops there… Don’t measure your devotion to God in terms of what you do for you only, because it is good… And it is good, but it’s good for nothing.” If I raised perfect children, maintained the perfect schedule, and maintained my ideal weight but do not have love, I’m nothing more than a leaf blower at 6:30 on Saturday morning!”
I don’t know why you’re clapping at that but… Alright. “If I drive an electric car, wear Tom’s and decline any coffee that is not fair trade but do not have love, I am nothing more than an obnoxious ringtone in a crowded movie theater.”
“If I take my family to the Holy Land and leave New Testaments in every room along the way but do not have love, I am nothing more than a middle school girl’s playlist”.
Here’s his point: Devotion to God does not stop at moral behavioral perfection. Devotion to God doesn’t stop at sinlessness. Devotion to God does not end with ‘I have a clear conscience’. Devotion to God isn’t measured in terms of God, I’ve made it through the whole day, aren’t you pleased with me? Look at what I didn’t do and look at what I did for me to be a better Christian.” Paul says, “Do all that stuff. I mean that’s great! That’s the introduction. That’s the set up. Because if all you do is make you a better you but it goes no further than you, you’re nothing more than an annoying version of you!”
Now that’s hard, isn’t it? He’s saying “Look, you’ve got to put your devotion in motion.” If your devotion is not in motion it’s not what you think it is because devotion to God, this is Christianity, this is it, this is the essence, this is where there’s a fork in the road for us and everybody else. Devotion to God is authenticated by love for others, not love for God in terms of that internal, devotional, I’m grateful, all of that’s important, all of that’s good, but it is authenticated by love for others.
Now, if you’re not a Christian I want you to pay attention because this is the issue. This is where we owe you an apology. This is probably why you left church. This is where many of us unintentionally got it wrong and we didn’t do this on purpose. It was how we were raised, it was how we were taught. We were raised in some kind of Christian community where it’s all about being good and all about being sinless and all about not having any bad habits and all about how am I doing, how am I doing and you go to bed at night. And what were we taught? We were taught to pray at night and ask God to forgive you of your sins, God forgive me of my sins and we’re thinking, “What sins did I commit?” We thought of moral things and lying things and cheating things and I raised my voice and I was disrespectful and God, I did it again, I did it again, I did it again, I did it again.
Please forgive me so I don’t do it again. I, I, I, I, I… And God’s going, “Okay, we’re good, we’re good but all we talk about is you.” Oh yeah. Here’s the deal: Listen, when our faith goes no further than private internal devotion, when our faith goes no further than “How am I doing God?” When our faith stops with my attempt to be more Godly, our message to the world is this: We know it all and we’re better than y’all. We know it all, ah you shouldn’t be doin’ that. Got a verse for that. And we’re better than y’all. We don’t do that. We don’t go there. We don’t spend time with those people. No we’d never put that in our body, our body’s a temple. And when you get that straightened out come be with us, we’d love to have you. It’d be fun, really.
Come be a drag like us, it’s great! I’m tellin’ you, and listen, this is huge. Because, and I don’t have time to talk about this, Jesus is irresistible, and anything you are resisting about Jesus, it probably isn’t Jesus, it’s probably us. Because who would resist grace, and who would resist forgiveness, and who would resist, “Hey let’s start where you are and take a baby step”. Who would resist that? But I’m tellin’ you, when we get confused and think that our devotion to God is to be measured in terms that only come back to “How am I doing?”, and “Am I breaking my habits?”, and “Am I getting my life together?”, and me, me, me… When it ends there then our message to the world is basically, “We know it all, come join us and you can know it all too and we’re better than you all. Hey, come be like us but don’t come quite yet, you gotta work on that, okay?”
Then who in the world is gonna be attracted to that? That’s why Paul said, “It’s good. It’s important. It’s just not enough.” And if you don’t love outside of your comfort zone, you’re [Greek (ooden)] and you’re [Greek (oothen)]. Now, let me try to put a twist on this and come out at a different angle, then we’ll wrap this up. What are you most grateful for? What are you most grateful for? You got two choices. What are you most grateful for? God’s sinless perfection. I mean, have you ever had trouble in your life, and you’ve stopped and said, “But God, the great thing… I mean, my life’s a mess, but you’re perfect, that helps me.
Is that what you’re most grateful for about God? The answer is no. Because the second option is this: God’s sacrificial intervention. You know what I’m most grateful for? God’s sacrificial intervention. That’s what we sing about. That’s what we worship about. That’s what brings tears to our eyes. It’s not when we hear that Jesus is perfect that something rises up on the inside. What makes something rise up on the inside is when we hear that perfect God sent his perfect Son into our mess for our benefit, because that’s the gospel. At the epicenter of the gospel is the fact not that God believed something, but that God did something. And your devotion to God and my devotion to God is incomplete until we put motion with our devotion. Because again, your devotion to God is authenticated to God and to others. Your devotion to God is authenticated to God and to others by your love for others. There is something in all religious people, and this goes all the way back to ancient times. There’s something in all religious people that wants to keep it vertical. Because if it’s vertical, I control it. If it’s vertical, then as long as I come up with a system that puts me in good graces with God, I’m good. Jesus says, “You wanna be my follower? It’s a new day, because you can no longer rate and gauge and measure your devotion to God vertically. It’s horizontal. It’s as you do onto them, you have done onto me. And until you do for them, don’t waste your time telling me what you’ve done for me.” Now, folks… Then we’re done.
What if that had been the posture of the church for the last 2000 years? What if the only thing people resisted about the church was the fact that we believe Jesus was the son of God. I’m telling you, nobody has resisted the church, because the church loved too much. Nobody has resisted the church because we were too welcoming. Nobody resisted the church because we were so willing to carry other people’s burdens. Nobody resisted Jesus and the church, because we’re so forgiving, and so open, and so gracious. What people find easy to resist about me and you and Christians is that we know it all and we’re better than y’all. And Paul said, “If that’s your Christianity, if that’s your approach to following Jesus? [Greek (oothen ooden)]. You’re nothing. You’re nothing. Because it doesn’t do anyone any good but you.
And that brings us back to our question, “So, what breaks your heart? What breaks your heart and are you willing to put some motion in your devotion?” You don’t have to quit your job, but you’re probably gonna have to quit something. You don’t have to leave the country, but you will have to leave your comfort zone. You don’t have to give all your money away, but you’re probably gonna have to start giving more than your currently give. But as we’ve said in week one, and I hope this bothers you ’til you do something. You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden that God has placed in your heart. And the only way to discover what hangs in the balance is to decide that it’s not just gonna be vertical from now on. You’re going horizontal.
You’re gonna find a way to actively love the people who are in the situation that break your heart because as Jesus taught in unmistakable terms, it is doing, not believing that makes the difference. It is doing, not simply believing that changes the world. So what breaks your heart? What breaks your heart? What breaks your heart? And are you willing to do something about it? When you do, what you will discover, what many of us have already discovered is that your resolution becomes a solution. And when your new resolution becomes a solution, you will have discovered purpose.