I was away this past weekend celebrating my wife Julie’s college reunion.
(Well, my college reunion, too, but it was her 35th and only my 34th and those “5” or “0” reunions are a big deal at our alma mater.)
So in my absence Wayne Hobson preached. Wayne is our Pastor of Congregational Care and the object of much love and affection throughout the Good Shepherd community.
At about 8:30 yesterday morning, while Julie and I were in the airport, I received a text from a close friend. “No Talbot?!” I answered back, “Concentrate on Wayne. He’s awesome.”
An hour later, the same friend texted, “Talbot who? Wayne was great.” As it turns out, Wayne’s personal and transparent message ministered to my friend at a deep point of need.
So here’s Wayne’s work, from Matthew 10:34-39.
So here we are in week 6 of Eye-Rollers”, and we’ve been taking a journey through the Gospel of Matthew, looking at those things that Jesus said that “makes you go hmmmmm” or we may say, “Oh come on Jesus – you musta fallen and bumped your head!” And we tell ourselves that He didn’t really mean it, but He does actually mean it. So, if you have your Bibles or a Bible app, we’ll be reading from Matthew chapter 10:34-39. And this eye-roller is no different. In this series, we’ve been doing things a little different – we’ve been starting off with reading our Scripture first
(AV– Mat. 10:34-39)
Now, some of you know me well, others know me a little, and others don’t know me at all. So today, I’m sharing my deepest, darkest moments of fear and anger. And it’s because, when we think of giving our lives to Christ, we think, okay, I’ve got Jesus – everything is going to be wonderful, everything’s going to be bright and sunny – like this (AV -from Oklahoma – “Oh what a beautiful morning”). That’s what I thought my life should have been like. But, Hold up, wait a minute, or like we used to say when I was growing up, “Slow your roll”, because I found out that there’s more to following Jesus than things working out the way that I prayed that they would.
While it’s really hard to talk about the darker part of my life, I want to share it with you now. My father passed away when I was 2 and when I was 6, my widowed mom remarried and her new husband was a recovering alcoholic, who fell off the wagon again. He was physically abusive to both my mom and me. And when my mother was lying in a hospital near death, he was out drinking up the money from my late father’s SS check, which I was entitled to. My stepfather had beaten me up one day because I endorsed the SS check in the wrong place and after he left, I remember shaking like a leaf, fearing that he would come back and kill me. My aunt and grandparents rescued me – can I hear an Amen for grandparents? Then, a couple of months later, on the day of my mother’s funeral, we found out that my stepfather, and my mom’s own brother and sister stole everything of value out of the house and later, the house was sold for $5,000 because back taxes, which my stepfather never paid. I gotta tell you, WHOOO, that’s a lot of grief, fear, and anger to dump on a child. I grew up filled with anger, though I knew Jesus. And despite knowing Jesus, I held a lot of anger towards my extended family and stepfather over all of that. There’s more to the story…BUT, I’ll tell you how my story ends… later.
Many of you can relate to what I’m saying – like when you get that pink slip for no good reason, or when you get that diagnosis that you had no clue about, or when your son or daughter checks out of sobriety and checks into a rehab. And now you carry anger, or fear, or doubt… And it wasn’t your fault. And maybe the one who wronged you was somebody you are or were close to. That changes your life. Jesus speaks of how our lives change –when we follow Him. Look again at what Jesus said in Matthew 10, verses 34-37
(AV – Mat. 10:34-37)
Wow, there’s a conundrum for you – the Prince of Peace doesn’t come to bring peace at all, He comes to bring division. And even more alarming, is that He didn’t come to bring families and friends closer together, but to divide them. Jesus says that when we choose to follow Him, our enemies will be members of our own household. Earlier in this series, we learned that the first enemy in our household – are ourselves. Now, Jesus sounds like we are gonna end up in family court. And we think, “Hey Jesus, Chill out with all the negativity.” Right now, you might be thinking, “I didn’t sign up for all of this!”
And when you came to Jesus, you thought everyone would be so happy for you (AV – from Oklahoma – “Oh what a beautiful morning”). KNOCK THAT OFF! (AV – “Oh what a beautiful morning”) – “Don’t make me come back there!”
Like when you got saved and sober, your old drinking buddies who can’t understand what’s the matter with you – and you tell them that Jesus is the matter with you! Or when you get saved and started coming to church, but your spouse won’t come with you because “they don’t need a church to be “spiritual”. And you think that it’s because they don’t want to be around you, but it’s really because they don’t want to be around Jesus, who is in you. Because Jesus changes people – He will always take you as you are, but He will never leave you as you are! And THAT’S what people are uncomfortable with.
Because when Jesus warns that your enemies will be of your own household and family, He is saying that all that is precious to you and all those who are precious to you, will desert you, will leave you, may be even turn against you. All but… Him and all because of HIM.
That’s why He tells us that he who finds their life, will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake, will find it. So is Jesus talking about being martyred for Him, NO, not exactly. His actual focus with all this talk about family, is Who your life is built on rather what your life is built upon. Look at verse 39 again:
(AV – Mat 10:39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Hey, do y’all wanna impress your friends and show them that you can speak an ancient language? It’s really easy. The NT was written in ancient Greek and the Greek word that Matthew uses for “life” is (AV – psuchē -pronounced “soo-kay”), Psuchē refers to not just life, but the vitality of your life, the strength of your life. So the next time someone asks, “How’s life treating you?” you can say, “my psuchē is going great, how’s your psuchē?”
Jesus is actually telling us that if we become too attached to people and things in this life, we will lose what makes life worth living, but when we surrender to Him, He becomes our life and THAT’S WORTH LIVING FOR.
We carry all of this stuff in our lives, the needs of our family, the mortgage, the car payments, work, worry, stress, and it goes on & on. But when we surrender to Jesus, those things and those people, won’t be the substance of our lives. Because here’s the bottom line – (AV “What you really want to keep is exactly what Jesus desperately wants to take. Even if He has to seize it from you.”) Because Jesus doesn’t want to be a partaker or a participant in your life; He is interested in being your Prince Who reigns over your life. He doesn’t want to just resurrect you after you die; the Resurrected One wants to resurrect you now, in this life. Jesus isn’t talking about the death of the body in verse 39 – He’s talking about the fact that all who are not fully surrendered to Him, are already losing their lives now.
Now, I’m NOT saying that Jesus wants to take all that you have from you and leave you with nothing – that would belittle the Cross and His death. What I AM saying is that He will come between you and whatever, even whoever is dearest to you if it comes between you and Him. Because, in the end, you will lose it anyway! Whether through death or it being taken from you, like in my case, you will lose all (softly)… but Jesus. And I AM saying that whatever you lose in life, whoever deserts you in life, Jesus replaces with His presence.
That’s what I had to learn. My security was the house that I grew up in and the assurance that it was mine. Jesus is my portion – that’s what I was missing – not my mother’s house, or even my mother, but “blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” And before I realized that, I was filled with anger and disappointment for years, even though I had given “my heart to Jesus as a child”.
That’s the mistake that I made, and maybe some of us have made as well –maybe you gave your HEART to Jesus, but that’s not what He requires you to give Him. NO, He wants your LIFE, not just your heart. Many of you are still alive today because Jesus didn’t invade your heart, He invaded your LIFE and disrupted the drugs and alcohol or the destructive ticking time-bomb that was your life;… anybody here know what I’m talking about?
Maybe that’s why some of us this morning can’t understand why you devoted so much too that job, or to that spouse, or to that home, or your health, and you lost it anyway. Maybe Jesus is telling you that you need to surrender more to Him and less to your life.
If you grew up like me, I just want you to know that He wants your hurt, your fears, your deepest, darkest pain. Some of us say “hey Jesus, I want that salvation stuff and I’m all for that eternal life stuff, but I need to keep my sorrow, and my anger –I have a right to my pity party. I know all about wearing my feelings like a badge of entitlement. It looks sort of like this – (AV – Star Trek clip, “our pain makes us who we are.”). I might agree with James T. Kirk on some things, but not on this! LETTING OUR PAIN DEFINE WHO WE ARE? How about letting the Blood of Jesus define who we are?
I gotta ask you this morning Good Shepherd, is that what you want the sum of your life to be? One long running complaint or one long running fit of anger or quest to acquire more? Or would you rather that the sum of your life be one long story about surrender – surrender to Jesus. Because I had to live with my anger and I discovered that what you live with, is what you will eventually live out. That’s what’s wrong- our pain and our complaints, and our attachments soon become who we are and that’s why Jesus both invades and insists on our lives. Jesus has sooooo much more to give us than what we cherish and hold onto. He isn’t interested in you ruling your life – Jesus’ intention is to reign over your life so that you won’t ruin it. There you have it!
That’s the life Jesus gives – joy in the midst of loss and sorrow. Whatever you lose, He replaces with Himself.
The old angry and hurting me just wanted to get even, to get revenge and that may just be some of you here today. And that’s why Jesus says that if you find your life like this, you will lose all that you could have had in Him.
Or maybe that’s not you – maybe for you, your life revolves around ambition or money, or your good looks. Maybe that’s what you don’t want Jesus to have, so that’s what you WILL LOSE. And you’re saying, yeah Jesus, I’m all in for eternal life, so give me that, but I need to have control of my life. It’s like that old Billy Joel – “I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life – go ahead with your own life; leave ME alone.” That’s just it – when Jesus owns you, He cannot and will not leave you alone. Because –
(AV “What you really want to keep is exactly what Jesus desperately wants to take. Even if He has to seize it from you”)
Jesus doesn’t want to take all that you have…He wants to take all that you have and exchange it for ALL that He is. When we surrender all that we have to Him, He turns it into all that He has – true life, eternal life.
So, can I get personal with you Good Shepherd? Well, I’m going to whether you like it or not.
(Demonstration with bags/ luggage) – Our lives can easily become like these bags up here – for some of us here today, we carry all of this with us, wherever we go. For some of us, it’s baggage from old relationships or failed marriages. Or moms and dads, maybe for you, it’s trying to live vicariously through your children, so you push them to be all that you wish that you could have been. Or maybe for you, its competitiveness – everything you do or say is just a competition. You may even treat your marriage or your relationships with friends like one big competition. And in the end, no matter how much you’ve won or how many times you’ve won, you will always be the Biggest Loser.
No matter what it is that has been driving your life, if it’s not Jesus, it will cause you to lose and you will hurt yourself and others along the way. It’s like a quote that I love from the WWII Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who sums it up this way.
That’s what Jesus is actually saying in Matt. 10:39 – we are like the mad driver of the car that is our life which we would only cause destruction with, and Jesus is the One trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of our hands – to save us and others, from ourselves. “What you really want to keep is exactly what Jesus desperately wants to take. Even if He has to seize it from you. ”
Now, I promised to tell you the end of my story. Years later, as an angry 18 year old, I went to college in Ohio and led a young man to Christ. One day, when I was sitting with a group of friends in the cafeteria, spewing out how God was going to punish my family members for what they had done to me, that same young man stopped at the table. He said “The LORD asked me to give you a message – He said to tell you that “Vengeance is mine says the LORD, I will repay.” I began bragging, saying “See, God’s gonna get them.”
I kept that anger for over 20 years and it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that the Holy Spirit was able to reveal to me what the LORD actually meant back in Ohio – He meant “Be quiet and let me as GOD settle the issue.” When I understood that, the anger left and shortly after that, and while living in an apartment, I received a letter from an attorney stating that my mother’s brother had died I was 1 of only 2 remaining heirs to his estate, which was sold. I took that money and bought my first house with it! I learned that Jesus wants to replace your life with His own. I finally learned that by allowing myself to lose everything to Jesus, I won everything IN Jesus. So God got His vengeance and I got some godly education. And the best thing that happened when I surrendered my entire life to Jesus, is that now I serve Him as a pastor here at Good Shepherd and it’s a wonderful life.
Idea to further emphasize the sermon (During the last song, an invitation will be given for congregation to write down on a piece of paper, provided in bulletin, what they need to surrender to Jesus. they come to steps and leave the papers in bags on the steps.)