Our reactions speak loudly, so loud that people take notice. Which means our reactions are an opportunity for influence, and Jesus shows us how to use that influence for good.
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So, I saw a tweet this week, a lot of people have given up on Twitter, but I like Twitter. It’s just I meet so many people, I have interesting conversations with people from all over the world, it’s fascinating. And so I saw this tweet this week, ’cause I follow all kinds of people, and it wasn’t directed at us, and it wasn’t directed at me, but it reflects what a lot of people in culture think, and the way a lot of people in our culture feel toward the church.
So I thought we would just start with this and maybe you can relate to this. In fact, this may be the only thing you’ve ever been able to relate to in church before, so we do have some common ground. Here is what the tweet said, “Before you demand Christianity to be taught schools, maybe you should demand it be taught in churches.” Right. Before you demand… And I assume they’re talking about prayer in schools, I don’t know exactly what they’re talking about on the top half of this, but this is a sentiment. Before you demand Christianity to be taught in schools, before you kinda cram this down our throats, perhaps or maybe you should demand that it be taught in churches. So if you’re not a Christian or you’re not a religious person, one of the reasons is difficult, and I’m kinda reading your mind a little bit. So maybe you don’t agree with this. One of the reasons that it’s difficult for you to take us seriously, is you wonder at times, if we take our own faith all that seriously.
So no wonder you can’t take us seriously, you look at the way we live and the way that we respond to certain things, and specifically the way that we react. Right, the way we react, the way that Christians often times react to events, the way we react to circumstances, the way we react or have reacted to certain kinds of people, or maybe the way a Christian reacted to you, or maybe the way a Christian, or the church reacted to someone that you love. And consequently, because of the way we react, you wonder, do you even believe this stuff, or maybe the way that we react when we don’t get our way, the way we react, when we don’t get our way, which leaves you with the impression that perhaps for us religion and Christianity in particular, that Christianity is just a tool that we use to get our way until it gets in our way. And then we push it out of the way and we just react like everybody else, we just have chapter and verse and throw Jesus name in there somewhere, right?
Now, what happens is, it looks as if we are living our lives and reacting in such a way that we don’t really believe in God, and why you quickly call us hypocrites, and we’ve certainly earned it at some level, is because we don’t always react like we really believe in a sovereign powerful God, and this is the same God that you feel like we insist that you believe in. I mean, after all, we’re the ones that are always saying God is love, God is Love, God is love, and of course, at times you wonder for love. Right. Where is the love? So, if that’s been your experience with Christians or with Christianity or with the church, I am terribly sorry about that, and that is on us, and I don’t speak for anybody but myself and our local churches, but we’re terribly sorry about that, because Jesus instructed us to be better than that, and Jesus instructed us to react better than that. And my hope is that if that’s you, if you’re listening or watching, or maybe you’re in one of our churches today, I hope that you would find the ability, and this will be hard if I were you, I understand, to overlook some of us who have so poorly represented our Savior and to discover the Jesus of the gospels.
To follow Jesus of the gospels, the Jesus that came to reveal what God is like and who God likes, and how to relate to your Father in heaven, and in the meantime, the rest of us Christians, we are working on the art of the over-under reaction. We’re developing our over-under reaction skills, the art of reacting to life and the circumstances of life and the criticism that comes our way, as if there really is a sovereign God in whom we place our trust. So today we are wrapping up our series. This is part three of Reactions Speak Louder Than Words. You’ve all heard, we’ve all heard that actions to be louder than words, but reactions speak louder than words, and reactions even speak louder than our actions. In fact, reactions speak so loudly that people always notice and people generally notice, as we said last time, two kinds of reactions, there’s the over-reaction. We’ve all been on the receiving end of that, some of us have been on the guilty end of that, and all of us have paused at work or at home or somewhere to watch an over-reaction unfold, or in some cases just unravel, but the second type of reaction that gets people’s attention is what we’re calling the over- under reaction.
So if you haven’t been with us, here’s what we mean by the over-under reaction, it’s just the term that we’ve coined, we just made this up. The over-under reaction is this, it’s an unexpected, counterintuitive, remarkable reaction. A unexpected, counterintuitive, remarkable reaction to disappointment, hurt, loss, rejection. Unmet expectations, criticism, anything that’s negative that comes our way, it’s a reaction that causes people to stop and wonder like, why isn’t she angry? She should be angry and she’s not angry, he should be so bitter after the way they treated him, and he’s not bitter.
The over-under reaction is so uncommon, and yet Jesus says, he’s so clear about this in the sermon on the mount, Jesus is so clear that the over-under reaction should characterize the life of the people who claim to be his followers. That the over-under reaction should be the habit of our lives, it should characterize our lifestyles. We’re to view criticism… Jesus said this, from week one, Jesus said, “You should view criticism, rejection, hurt, disappointment as opportunities. As Opportunities to react in such a way that it reflects God’s reaction to you in spite of your sin and in spite of your broken promises, and in spite of your wandering wayward ways.” That our reactions to other people and our reactions to negative circumstances in particular should reflect God’s reactions to us, not react to people the way they deserve to be reacted to. This is what it means, this is what it looks like to follow Jesus, because reactions speak louder than words and reactions get people’s attention.
And also he said, your… Disappointment and hurt in your life, this is also an opportunity to react in a way that communicates to the point of how we begin our time today, that communicates your confidence in God. and if my reactions do not reflect confidence in God, I have work to do, and no wonder other people don’t take my faith seriously, or don’t take us seriously. But as we saw last week as well, Jesus didn’t just instruct us to do this, Jesus modeled this. Peter who was there for all the events of the life of Jesus earthly ministry or just about all of them, said this, talking about Jesus, that when… And he was there for this, he didn’t read this, he was… He experienced this.
These are his words, Peter says, “When they, the people who crucified Jesus and mis-trialed him and accused him of all kinds of things, when they hurled their insults at him, he didn’t retaliate, he didn’t return evil for evil, he didn’t respond in like kind, he did not react the way that anybody else would have reacted, he didn’t react in the way people would expect someone in his circumstances to react. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When He suffered, He made no threats.
Instead… And then if you’ll remember, if you were here last time, Peter gives us a clue. Here’s our clue, here’s our peak behind the curtain, here’s the perspective that we are invited to embrace as we live our lives in this world that’s so inconsistent and that every day is different than the day before, and we never know what’s gonna happen, and we never know what’s gonna happen. Again, here’s the perspective that empowers the over-under reaction. Peter says, this is what Jesus did, and then when you follow Peter and the disciples after the Resurrection, we find that this was the perspective they embraced as well. In fact, the first century, second century, third century church that was persecuted, this was the perspective they maintained. To some extent, this is why we’re here, this is why Christianity to some extent, even survived the first two centuries. Instead, Jesus entrusted himself to God, His Father, who judges justly.
That essentially, literally what this means is that Jesus in those moments when things were 100% negative, he gave himself over to his Heavenly Father and said, “Heavenly Father, you are responsible for outcomes, not me. I’ve done what you asked me to do, and the outcome is up to you. I’ve simply done what you’ve called and asked me to do, the outcome is up to you,” then the Apostle Paul comes along and he echoes the same idea, I wanna read you something he said, but it’s worth remembering, especially if you’re not a Christian or not a religious person, that when the Apostle Paul steps on to the pages of history, he’s not a Jesus follower, he’s not a Christian. In fact, he’s anti-Christian.
You might not like Christians. Paul’s your guy, that’s how he steps out of the pages of history, like these people are crazy, they’re hijacking Judaism, they’re hijacking the Torah, and they’re twisting it and they’re using it for their own purposes, and so he decides in a violent way, he’s gonna put… Exterminate the church, it’s amazing. And then he meets the resurrected Jesus, and his life is totally transformed, and when his life is totally transformed, he loses 100% of his friends, all of them, everybody turns on him and the church people are scared of him because he’s been persecuting and having them arrested, and their wives arrested and their family, people tortured. He’s all alone, and then he leaves what’s familiar, Judea and Galilee, and travels all around the Greek world, meeting new people and sharing the good news of Jesus, and then at the end, I’m summarizing the Book of Acts for you, he shows back up in Jerusalem and they should have welcomed him as a hero, he’s like the first missionary…he gets back to Jerusalem, instead of the church welcoming him, they’re like, “Hey, we’re glad you’re back and thanks for bringing this money” ’cause he brought them this big offering, he collected this offering from all these Gentiles, he gets back and they’re like, “You know, your reputation is kind of trashed here,” and so… And they put him through, it’s so horrible, he ends up getting arrested and ends up in Rome. So when I read what he says, he’s not propped up on the beach somewhere, I’m writing the Bible. Hey, let’s all write the Bible. No, no, no. His life has been hell on steroids, it’s been unbelievable, and yet with all that experience, all the rejection, all the frustration, all the disappointment, he says something to you, he says something to you and says something to me that’s extraordinary, and he believed it with all his heart.
And when it gets from our heads to our hearts, it changes everything, it’s exactly why Jesus was so courageous and bold to say what he said in the sermon on the mount about how we react to negative circumstances. Here’s what Paul writes, and for most of us, we’ve heard these words before. I want you to try to hear them as if you’re hearing them for the first time, here’s what he says, and we know, Paul writes. We, not just him, “And we know” he’s writing to Christians in Rome, and he’s not been to Rome yet, he wants to get there, he ends up getting there, not the way he thought he’d get there, but he’s writing to these Christians in Rome. “And we know that in all things God works.” Do what… Should we go? Okay, time out. All things? Even in those things? Even in those things that did not work out, are you saying everything works out? Paul’s saying, “No, no, no, I’m not saying, everything works out. I’m just saying that in all things, God works,” but what about this thing? What about that thing? What about this other thing?
And Paul’s like, let me tell you about my thing, and when Paul finishes telling you and me about his thing, which he does, and from Acts Chapter 7 on, it’s like, Oh yeah, I thought I had a problem till I read your story. Paul’s going, I know, I know what I’m talking about. That in all things, the disappointing things, the surprise things, the “you gotta be kidding me”, things, God works. And Paul would say, and this is why you always caught me over-under reacting to my critics. In all things God works, for the good of those who love Him. Now, see, we read love him, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I love God, I love God. I love God. I don’t know about Christianity and church, but I love God.” That’s not what Paul’s talking about. Paul’s talking about the man or woman who has done what Jesus did, who has entrusted their lives to their Heavenly Father.
He’s talking about the person who’s made the decision, you know what, I’m gonna live my life as if I’m actually confident that God is with me and for me, and Paul says, when you step into that realm, when you embrace that perspective and you decide to stay there, then you can stay there with this confidence that your Heavenly Father is working through all things, the things you would choose, the things you would un-choose and the things that are so bad, you would not even choose them for someone that you don’t like. But here’s the catch, right? Let’s just be honest. How do we know that? Paul says, and we know like, we all know, we’re like, wait, wait, wait, you’re going too fast. We don’t know that. Okay, how do we know that? Because if I knew that God really was at work, that would help me a lot. I mean, that would give me the perspective I would need. How do we know that? And Paul would say,”Well, here’s what I want you to do, here’s how you begin to moving in that direction.” He asks a question, I love this, he says, “So, if God is at work in all things and all things aren’t good things, what shall we say then?” This is amazing. What then shall we say in response… There’s our word, reaction. When then shall we say in response to these things? In other words, how should we react? How should we respond? To which things?
He would say, “Well, all things, because God is working through all things, even the disappointing things, the out of left field things to now what, not again things.” And then what he says next is so amazing, what he says next really could be a game changer for many of us. Paul says you should pause and ask this question. Literally ask it. Look what he says. What then shall we say? What then shall we say? He says… Here’s what… I’m giving you exactly what you should say in those moments, maybe out loud, or certainly in your heart. Here’s what he says we should say, ready for this? You’ve heard this before, but maybe not in this context.
What shall we say to all these things, if God is for us, who can be against us? If God is for us, who could be against us? If God is for us, then who or what can really be against us?
Now imagine, I’m just telling you what Paul said to do, okay? And you’ve got some tough things you’re dealing with, I know. Paul had some tough things, and Paul wouldn’t say this unless he knew it. Again, he just… He’s just repeating in his own way what Jesus taught, but imagine, imagine before reacting to, pausing to say that to disappointment and heartbreak, and surprise, and rejection and unmet expectations. Imagine pausing in the moment, under your breath to say, “But if God is for me, who can be against me?” But if God is for me… If God… They’re not for me, it’s not… But if God is for me, Paul says, this is what we say to these things. But that brings us back to the question we skipped. If, if, if, if… If God is for us, again, how do we know? Because a lot of times, it doesn’t look like God is for us, right?
In fact, a lot of the times that you may be in a season it hasn’t looked like God is for you or anything’s working for you in a long, long time. Months, maybe years, maybe you’re in the rough rough rough spot of a marriage, a rough spot with your career, you got a prodigal son or a prodigal daughter. It doesn’t look like or feel like God is for you. But again, before we bail on the whole idea, we’re gonna talk about that in just a minute, follow the Apostle Paul through acts from Acts Chapter Seven to where he ends up in Rome, it’s like, “Where is God?”
Follow Jesus from Galilee through Samaria to Jerusalem on His final destination. You know his date with destiny in Jerusalem, follow Jesus through his trials to ask the question, but where is God? Same question. And Paul knew we would ask it. So he tells us, how we know? He says, if God is for us, who can be against us? And then He says He, talking about God. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all. This is so important. It sounds a little Sunday school, but it’s so important. It’s so true. The cross. The cross. The cross. The cross is how we know God is for us. The cross is how you know that God is for you. And you know what, while we’re on this, this is the reason. And of course, you would expect me to say this ’cause of what I do in my role. Right. But I’m gonna say it anyway because it’s true, this is why, this is one of the main reasons we gather, this is one of the main reasons we gather physically, this is one of the main reasons you’ve got to find a place to gather with other believers. Consuming content is not enough. Singing a song is not enough.
This is why we gather. The reason the church, the early church gathered, the reason we gather is to remind ourselves corporately that there’s more to this life than what we see, and that we are not alone and that we are not the only ones. And that life is not perfect, but God is perfect and life is not lovely, but God is love. And it’s in gathering and hearing stories and experiencing the fellowship among men and women who are experiencing the difficulties of life that it found a way to allow their confidence in God to give them the strength to keep on going.
And even though life is not lovely, God loved you so much that He gave what it was most valuable to Him on your behalf, he reacted to your sin, not in like kind, he reacted to your broken promises, not in like kind, he reacted to your failure and my failure by loving us anyway. And Paul said on those dark days, dark days for him being in jail, dark days for him being in a hole in the ground, dark days for him being shipwrecked and stoned and abandoned by his friends. On those dark days, Paul would tell you, you know what my hope was in? Not the goodness of life. The goodness of God as demonstrated by the fact that God did not spare His own Son, but He gave Him freely to me in spite of me. But then he finishes it this way. How? If he did not spare his own son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also along with Jesus, graciously give us all things. Better translation, graciously give us everything else. Everything associated with the unconditional love of God.
And Paul enumerates these throughout the Book of Romans. Adoption into the family. That you can call… Jesus said we can do this and Paul explains why we can do this. Jesus invited us to refer to God as our Heavenly Father. All these other things that, everything else, the concern that would come with the love of a Heavenly Father. The strength that we need in time of need, the grace that is sufficient in our darkest lowest moments. His point is simply this, if God is for you then when all is said and done, who can win against you? If God is for you then who or what can ultimately… Not initially, not immediately. If God is really for you, ultimately who, can ultimately win against you? Who controls? This is what it comes down to. Who controls outcomes? Who controls the ultimate outcomes of the things that come your way. Paul would say, your Heavenly Father. So practically speaking, when someone considers you their enemy, when someone treats you like an enemy, you don’t have to return the favor.
You can choose to say, wait if God is for me, you can’t win against me. I don’t suggest you say that out loud, you might want to but the point is in that moment it’s like, “Wait a minute,’ they’re coming on strong and you… What am I gonna do? And he’s powering up, she’s powering up and they’re the they and I’m not the they and… Wait a minute, wait, wait. If God is for me, ultimately, you can’t win against me. And in that space, that’s when you give them your best over-under reaction. Because to do anything else is to grant control, to give away the control of your life and your destiny to something or someone who does not control your destiny. To react, remember we said this last time, to react is to hand over control. To react is to declare that someone or something determines outcomes, controls your future. And here’s the great thing about following Jesus, Jesus instructs us to live as if that is not the case, because according to Jesus, that is not the case. So this is what it looks like, this is what it looks like to react Christian. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus.
Now, if you listen to all this and it’s like, “Okay AS, really, you must just live at the church, they must never let you out in the real world and you must not have access to the internet. Do you know what the world is really like out there? This doesn’t work, this isn’t how the world works, and I’m not even gonna try to work it.” You know what, if that was your push back, I’m just trying to say what maybe some of you were thinking. I get it. I mean you’re saying, okay. So I’m supposed to entrust my career, my money, my family, my kids, my… I’m supposed to entrust all this to an invisible God, and then I just do what I’m supposed to do, and then I just don’t worry. Right? That I just do the right thing and then I just wait and hope it kinda works out. That I refuse to try to control outcomes, I refuse to try to manipulate outcomes. That is absolutely ridiculous. It’s so passive, it’s so weak. Good luck with that. I’m gonna go live in the real world. So if that’s your perspective, I understand, and that’s why I said it so well. It’s like, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. I know, me too. Okay, I’m not that different.
I’m not trying to be snarky, but can I just push back a little bit before we wrap up? If that’s ridiculous then go ahead and worry. And when things don’t go your way, react. Be loud and proud. Demand your way, blow up, or maybe sulk and be depressed and manipulate and pout. But yeah just take it all on. Live your life as if there is no personal God. Live your life as if God doesn’t know your name. Live your life as if God doesn’t care. That all there is to this life is this life. To twist Peter’s terminology a little bit, entrust yourself to yourself. Now to take some other words out of context that Peter used, cast your cares on you, because in the end, because in the end, you’re the only one who will care for you. I mean isn’t that how you feel? Isn’t that kind of your response to some of this or to twist Jesus’ words a little bit, I know that’s kind of dangerous, okay? Worry about tomorrow. Somebody’s got to, right?
So you do it. Come on. I know I’m being… I just… You were pushing back in your mind, I’m pushing back out loud, take on… Come on, take on responsibility for outcomes that you have no control over. People you can’t control, an economy you can’t control, an economy you can’t regulate and your physical body that doesn’t always cooperate. You just take all of that on yourself. Wake up every day with that. But if you ever get to the point where it’s just too much, where you come to the conclusion that I can’t control outcomes, I can’t even control myself all that well. There is a standing invitation from your Savior. This is amazing, 1st century invitation. That’s for every century. And here’s what Jesus says to you in the moment, if it ever becomes too much for you, He says, “Come to me.” I love this. “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened. Come to me all of you who are trying to carry something you were never created to carry, that you were not intended to carry.” You’re carrying things that you can’t carry like Tomorrow.
You’re trying to carry tomorrow. You’re trying to carry outcomes. I want you to come to me and I will give you rest. I will carry the load you were never intended to carry. Then he says this, take my yoke, my way of life, my way of living. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. This is what it means to follow Jesus, it means to be a learner. To take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and I am humble in heart, take on the Jesus way. The follow me way, the way that allows you to, listen to this. The way that allows you to live responsibly without taking responsibility for things you were never intended to take responsibility for to begin with. And then here’s the promise. And if you come to me and you entrust yourself to me you will find rest for your souls. You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke, by comparison is easy, and my burden by comparison is light. Because you won’t be carrying it alone. So if God is for you who can win against you? It’s why we say following Jesus will make your life better, it’ll make you better.
It won’t make life easier, it just makes life better because you’re only carrying what you are intended to carry, and you’re entrusting your future to the God who loves you and demonstrated it by sending His Son to pay for your sin instead of requiring you to pay yourself. Because at the end of the day our responsibility is to follow, God’s responsibility is outcomes. So, well, let’s over-under… Let’s over-under react in a way that causes people to look up and to wonder and to connect the dots between our reactions and our confidence in God.
Our reactions according to Jesus are our best opportunity to assure the people around us that we actually believe what we claim to believe, so for the sake… So for the sake of our influence. For the sake of the influence of the church, for the sake of the world, let’s get this right. Because it’s true. Reactions speak louder, way louder than words.