Below you will find the transcript of Chris Thayer’s sermon from this past Sunday, March 26.
We diverted from our usual Sunday program in which Zoar Road gets my sermon on hologram (hi def, life-size video). Instead, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the campus, Chris prepared and delivered the message below.
Chris preached this to the 294 people at Zoar Road. His bottom line: Don’t let the WHAT distract us from the WHO.
Good morning. My name is Chris Thayer and I’m our Zoar Campus Pastor. It’s great to be here with you today and to celebrate One year together. It’s so great to see what God has done and to look forward to what He is going to do.
Before we launched our Zoar Campus, I oversaw LifeGroups at Good Shepherd. So I have a soft spot in my heart for them. My wife and I both attend LifeGroups. My LifeGroup meets on Tuesday evenings and hers meets on Wednesdays. It’s just easier for us to do it on two different nights, that way one of us can always be home with the kids. We figure that it’s not good to leave a 6 year old and a 3 year old at home alone.
Katie’s LifeGroup starts at 6:30, so every Wednesday I make sure I’m home by 6pm so she can make it to her LifeGroup.
Well, several months ago I had a hard day at work with a lot of meetings and some hospital visits, so I was running late. I was pretty stressed because of having a busy day and knowing that I had to be home so Katie could to her LifeGroup. I was running late and I hate not being on time. So I got home at 6:20, and Katie had to leave right away.
The kids and I sat down to eat dinner. Since it was a long day and they had been so well behaved the previous week, I figured that it would make our evening a little easier if I had a project. Somewhere I could take them. So I decided I was going to take them out for ice-cream. I told them about it when I got home and they were excited.
But then it took a really long time for them to eat their dinner. And as it got later and later I realized we were going to have a difficult time making it home to get them in bed by their bedtime at 8pm.
The whole time I was sitting with my kids I was distracted. I was thinking about my day, how I was late, how they were taking too long to eat to keep on schedule, and now that we were going to be late to bed. My mind was everywhere but present.
So I decided that we needed to get their PJ’s on before we left. That way I wouldn’t have to be worried about having one more thing to do when we got back and we could enjoy getting ice-cream. I realize there’s no actual difference in time, but it made me feel better.
They got their PJ’s on and we got in the car in the garage. I buckled them in their car seats, sat down in the driver seat, started the car, and put it in reverse. Now before you ask, yes, I did open the garage door. But I was so distracted by everything else that I wasn’t paying attention. I looked over my left shoulder and as I was backing out I heard a loud crunch to my right. I snapped my head around to see that I had hit the side of the garage door frame. I pull the car forward, get out, and see the mirror smashed. Plastic was on the floor, and it was dangling pitifully by a wire.
I told the kids I made a grown-up mistake, and that we couldn’t have ice-cream. I told them to head inside and play and I’d be in later to put them to bed.
As I looked at the mess I had made, I noticed I had a bottle of Gorilla Glue and a roll of duct tape on the workbench. And what can you NOT fix with Gorilla Glue and duct tape? So, I grab them and get to work. But now I’m even more distracted because I’m mad at myself and upset that the kids can’t get ice-cream because of my mistake, on top of everything else that happened that day. So over an hour and three attempts later I’ve made a mess. Glue’s everywhere and the duct-tape pulled paint off the car.
I go inside, put the kids to the bed at about 8:45 and go to bed. I was done with the day.
And praise God for new days, because the next morning when I wasn’t distracted I realized the mirror was a simple fix. I pop off the old mirror that was held on by a couple of bolts, order a replacement part on Amazon, and within 7 minutes of it arriving at my house I have a new mirror on my car. The only way you know there was ever an issue is the paint that’s missing from the duct tape I used to try to fix it when I was distracted.
Isn’t it that way when we get distracted? We end up making a mess and things are so much harder than they would be if we were focused on the right thing. We end up with a pile of glue and peeled paint.
We have problems with our spouse or with our kids. And instead of focusing on them we distract ourselves with TV, games, and social media. We make our lives look like these great pictures, but if anybody pulled back the curtain they’d find something much different.
And far from helping the problems, distracting ourselves from them makes them worse. Relationships fall apart, our children suffer, and we end up with divorces.
This is why I LOVE Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. As I was praying about what God wanted us to hear today as we celebrate a year together as a community, I was reading through Paul’s letters to churches. You see, Paul was a sort of traveling preacher, teacher, evangelist, and church planter. He would start churches in the cities he traveled to. He would share the Gospel of Jesus with people in that city and they would form communities and continue to spread the Gospel when Paul left to go to another city. Then, as the churches encountered problems, or when he wanted to encourage them, he would write them letters.
So I’m reading through these letters Paul wrote and I got to the letter to the church in Colossae. I learned that Paul wrote this letter when the church was still young. They hadn’t been around very long. So immediately this caught my attention. And Paul had never actually been to this church. He’d never met the people. His friend, Epaphras, actually started the church. But Paul learned that there were some issues going on in the church, and he wanted to write them to encourage and challenge them.
Right at the start of the letter, in the first chapter, Paul lets the Colossian church know the kind of things that he’d like to see in their lives. He lets them know that he wants them to have knowledge and wisdom from the Spirit, that they would bear fruit, and that they would have endurance and patience.
Later in the letter he is going to address some false teachers they have had infiltrate their ranks. People who were distorting the Gospel and telling them things that were untrue.
So Paul wants to address two things: fruit that they’d have in their lives and false teachers.
And stepping back from the letter, if I were writing a community of believers that were young. If I were encouraging a group of people to have good fruit in their lives and to be on guard against false teachers, I’d make sure that I jumped right into practical tips. The WHAT of how they can achieve these things in their lives. If most of us were to write this letter, we’d probably include things like: pray regularly, study scripture, gather together with other believers regularly (get in a LifeGroup!), serve others, and fast.
That’s what I’d do anyway.
But that’s not what Paul does.
As I read through the first chapter again and again – I realized that Paul went on this odd tangent. When I would have jumped to the what, Paul does something different.
Now, anytime something in scripture shocks you; anytime something happens that you don’t understand or that you think would have been done differently: pay attention. Writing a letter in the ancient world was not as simple as it is today. Paul couldn’t zip an e-mail over to the Roman church. Or text the Ephesians. Paul more than likely dictated his letters. The paper was expensive, the ink wasn’t easy to come by. And there was no Amazon to one-day ship his letter. Somebody had to transport the letter through often difficult conditions to deliver the communication.
So listen to what Paul says when we think he’d be giving the Colossians practical tips on what to do:
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Huh? We would tell them what and Paul gives them a who. Why?
Paul, didn’t Epaphras already tell them this? They’re already following Jesus, so don’t they already know this about Him?
And then it hit me. Paul’s words challenged the Colossians and speak to us today:
Don’t let our focus on the what distract us from the who.
Paul knew that as this church got its feet under it and started to deal with adversity within its ranks, that it’d be really easy to focus on what they need to do and forget that it’s only through the who that they’re able to do any of it.
Paul probably gives more practical advice than anyone in the New Testament. He frequently tells churches what they should be focused on.
And there’s nothing wrong with that – but he knows that the minute they get distracted by the what they’re going to end up with a mess of glue and duct tape.
Look at it again:
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
If you believe THAT – if you believe that God has stepped into this world – that Jesus stepped into this world. That in some mysterious way God Himself, through the person of Jesus, stepped onto the ground we walk on – then nothing can stay the same for us.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
If Jesus is the head of the body. If He is the head of our community, then we can’t look at each other and pretend that we can do anything at all without Him. If we miss Him, if we move without Him, we may as well hang it up. In Him all things hold together.
If He has uniquely gifted everybody in this community to serve Him then we need each other. We would be disobedient to Him if we lived any other way.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
We live in a broken and hurting world. All of us have been broken in one way or another. And the only hope the world has is in the one who reconciled the world and made peace. The one who has brought redemption and peace. The one who died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day defeating death.
Outside of Him we have nothing. Outside of the Who the What has zero significance.
And I LOVE how he ends this section:
29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
All of the what Paul does, flows out of who is in Him. Not his own power. Christ’s.
Don’t let our focus on the what distract us from the who.
Over the past several months I’ve realized this to be so true. As we continue to grow and learn how to do this new Campus thing at Good Shepherd I’ve found it’s so easy for me to focus on the what. How can I help people get involved in LifeGroups, how can I help people get involved in ServeTeams. What do we need to do to reach out to the community. How can I make people happy so they want to stay.
I found myself getting so caught up in the what that I’d lost sight of the who. I found myself shifting toward inviting people into a living relationship with Good Shepherd instead of with The Good Shepherd.
But if we want to be what God wants us to be and do what He wants us to do we need to focus first on Him. I need to realize that my first responsibility is not your happiness but your holiness. Not how good we are but how glorious He is.
Because if we actually believe what Paul wrote about Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20 and THAT’S who we know – then we can’t stay the same.
Who we become flows out of who He is.
So how about you? Where in your life are you focusing so much on the what that you’ve forgotten the who? How can you listen to Paul’s letter to the Colossians and be reminded daily who Jesus is?
I have a friend who does it this way:
Every day he’s reminded during his commute who Jesus is.
Because imagine what our community, your neighborhoods, your workplaces, and your families will look like when you operate out of the reality of who Jesus is.
And so many of you have challenged me and encouraged me when you live this out. When you view your workplace not as a place to make money but a place God has placed you to serve Him and communicate His Gospel.
Or others of you who are less concerned about the accolades your children will receive than you are about the Savior they will know.
So as we look forward to the years to come for us as a community and for all of us in our lives:
Don’t let our focus on the what distract us from the who.