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Monday, March 30, 2015

4. Get Rid of False Expectations

Copyright March 25, 2015 by Chris Mullis
John 12:12-19
Introduction
            I really don’t like to clean up.  The hardest part of cleaning up for me is getting started.  Sometimes when I look around at a dirty house or a dirty office, the job just seems too monumental I’m afraid to start.  And I’m a great procrastinator so I start thinking of all sorts of reasons to put it off.  So getting started is half the battle for me.
            Some people put off cleaning up their house or their room.  Some people put off cleaning up their life.  If you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to get started.  We’ve been talking about ways to clean up our lives for the past few weeks.  I encouraged you to start reading your Bible more.  Then, we talked about getting rid of false motives.  Last week, we discussed getting rid of distractions.  Today, I want to encourage you to get rid of false expectations about God.
            Today is Palm Sunday, the day we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Jerusalem Temple while people shouted hosannas and waved palm branches for their long awaited Messiah.  It was a day of great expectation.  It was also a day so many people misunderstood because they had false expectations of what the Messiah would be.  Let’s look at the story together.

John 12:12-19
12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”
·       In Jesus’ day, it was common for well over 2 million people to flood into Jerusalem from all over the world for the Passover celebration.  They were already filled with expectations for their trip to Jerusalem.  Many of them had dreamed their whole life of traveling to Jerusalem—the same way many kids might dream of one day going to Disney world or adults might dream of taking a cruise. 
·       And then in addition, news that Jesus was coming swept through the city like a wildfire along with the report that he had just recently raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.  Can you imagine the hopes and expectations?  People are thinking, “This Jesus raised a man from the dead after he’d been in a tomb for 4 days?  Could this be the long awaited Messiah who will lead a revolution of freedom from the Romans?  And it’s happening while we are here in the city!”
·       And it was this jubilant throng of expectant people who cheered for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.  They shouted a familiar chant from Psalm 118:25-26, which were verses they had shouted for conquering kings before.  Though Jesus came in peace, the crowd expected Jesus to come for war.
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”
       Jesus knew the crowds’ false expectations for him.  They wanted a king marching to war.  There was no way for him to tell them they had it wrong.  There was no way for a crowd like that to hear him above the shouts of jubilations—even if they were willing to listen.
       So Jesus chose a symbolic act to show his true intensions.  He rode a donkey’s colt.  You see, kings ride horses when they are going to war.  But when they come in peace, they ride donkey’s colt.  Jesus was symbolically saying, “I come in peace.”  But the crowd wanted Jesus to make war against their Roman oppressors.
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
       Even Jesus disciples—his closest friends—didn’t understand.  They were swept up in the enthusiasm of the crowds’ false expectations.  Passion like this is contagious.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

False Expectations
I struggle with the celebration of Palm Sunday.  On one hand, I love to see the children walk down the aisles of our church waving palm branches and I love the joyous festive atmosphere, which recalls the jubilant crowd that praised Jesus in Jerusalem in scripture reading.  On the other hand, it’s troubling to me because the crowd misunderstood Jesus’ purpose.  They had such high expectations for him, but they were the wrong expectations.  Some people in the crowd just wanted to see a famous celebrity.  The majority expected a conquering king to save them from the Romans and restore Israel’s prestige.  The political/religious authorities expected a trouble maker, a threat to their power that needed to be eliminated.  Each group’s false expectations about Jesus blinded them to the miracle that was before them.  The Son of God had come in peace to conquer—not the Romans—but their sinful hearts. 

False Expectations about God
            Two thousand years have passed since the first Palm Sunday, but we still struggle with false expectations about God.  I want to go over three common false expectations we have of God.

First of all, we expect God treat us all the same.[i]  We equate fairness with equality.  We trust  The problem is we are not all the same.  Each one of us is a unique masterpiece God is creating.  He is not working the same way in my life as He is in yours.  Therefore, He does not treat you the same as me. 
God to be fair and so we expect God to treat us all the same.
            My children often complain that I did not treat them all the same.  My 13-year-old daughter gets made when I punish her more severely than my 8-year-old for the same offense.  "Why aren't you as strict on her?"  Because a 13-year-old knows better and the 8-year-old didn't know any better. All my children are different.  I love them all the same, but I don't treat them all the same because each one is an individual with different strengths and weaknesses and different needs.  I treat each one how they need to be treated for their own good.
            Second, we expect God to give us an easy life if we follow Him.  We often feel like God should reward us if we are doing all the things He asks us.  Well, God does take care of us (whether or not we are obedient).  Yet, God never promised He would give us an easy life.  It’s a good thing too, because an easy life often produces lazy, selfish, immature people.  God doesn’t want that for us.  He wants us to be strong, generous, and mature people.  He wants us to overcome some difficulties in life to develop our character, strengthen our faith, and teach us to endure.  Hardships actually bring us closer to God, while an easy life tends to cause us to drift away from God.  So hardships are not a sign that God doesn’t care; they are a sign that God cares deeply and wants to grow your faith and draw you closer to Him.
            Third, we expect God to protect the innocent from pain and suffering.  We might be OK with dealing with a little suffering ourselves, but it is hard to see others (often people we love dearly) suffer.  We cry out, “Lord, why are you letting—my child, my mother, my spouse, etc.—suffer.  What have they done to deserve this?”  Sometime we are appalled when we hear of exceptionally good people suffering.
            The first thing to note is, no one is innocent.  Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  So if “innocent” is our standard that says, “God should not let ‘innocent’ people suffer, we have already made an irrelevant statement.  No one is innocent.
            “Ok,” you say.  “This is semantics.  No one is innocent.  But shouldn’t God protect those who maybe-aren't-so-innocent-but-not-as-bad-as-axe-murderers?”  I don’t want to give you some cliché as an answer.  There are some terrible things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.  I don’t expect you to understand it all either.  All I know is that if God can take the ultimate evil of the crucixion—when the world took God’s Son, the only truly innocent man who ever walked the earth—and turn it into the ultimate good, God can take whatever evil befalls a person and turn it into something incredibly good.  I think the worse the pain or suffering that is endured, the greater the ultimate good will because it brings the greatest glory to God.
          Perhaps this is one more reason we will praise God so heartily in Heaven.  When we get there we will finally understand what God was doing.  We will look back at some of those instances of incredible suffering that we just couldn't understand and we will exclaim, "Now I finally see!  Now I get it!  I couldn't understand it before, but not I see clearly what it was all about, what You were doing.  And I am amazed!" 

What God Expects of Us
            We need to get rid of our false expectations of God.  Instead, we need to focus on what God expects of us.  He expects us to trust Him.  Even when we don’t understand, even when we don’t agree, even when we are afraid, God wants us to trust Him.  He is trustworthy.  He has done everything in Christ to show His love and power and that He is trustworthy.
            God expects us to obey Him.  Obedience is the outward expression of trust.  If we belive God is trustworthy and has our best and ultimate interest in mind, we will do what He says.
            God expects us to love Him.  God wants more than mere obedience.  God wants a relationship.  Just as your spouse or children or friends desire your companionship, God wants to be with you.  God wants you to come to Him like a small child climbs up in his mother’s or father’s lap.

Challenge - This week, I challenge you to get rid of your false expectations about God and focus on what God expects of you. 


[i] http://blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/why_our_expectations_of_god_are_unrealistic

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell...

Great Books to Read
Copyright March 24, 2015 by Chris Mullis 
 
Proverbs 18:15 – “Intelligent people are always ready to learn.  Their ears are open for knowledge.”

            I did not like school when I was a kid.  Even though I made good grades, it was boring to me.  I couldn’t wait to finish school so I didn’t have to go anymore.  However, my Mom told me, “You should never stop learning.  You should try to learn something new every day, even after you are done with school.”
            Now that I am grown and finished with my formal education, I find I still want to learn.  I enjoy science and history.  I like to learn new skills and understand how things work.  I also enjoy listening to audiobooks and find it is an excellent way to learn.  At the end of this article, you will find a list of some of the best books I’ve read that I recommend to you (in no particular order).
The Bible – Whether or not you read any other book, please read this one.  Sadly, only 19% of church-going Christians report they read their Bible every day yet we watch an average of 5 hours of TV a day.  I challenge you to pick up your Bible and start in Matthew and read at least one chapter a day.  It will take about 5 minutes a day and you will read the entire New Testament in one year.  It’s time every Christian rediscovers the Bible and makes a commitment to read it.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

God loves you and so do I!
 

 

 

 

 

 
Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith – The captivating story of Ashley Smith, a recovering drug addict, who was abducted and held hostage in her apartment in 2005 by Atlanta courthouse killer Brian Nichols.  Perhaps you remember the headlines that gripped the world, but you need to read the amazing story of how God changed everything for Ashley.
 
As We Forgive by Catherine Larson – This is an excellent book that examines forgiveness and reconciliation.  Retelling the stories of survivors of the Rwandan genocide who learned to forgive and reconcile with the very people who committed the atrocities.  This is a book that everyone should read to understand the amazing healing available through Christian forgiveness.
 
Is God Anti-Gay by Sam Allberry – Everyone is talking about gay marriage and public opinion is shifting on the issue.  What does God say?  In this very easy-to-read and understand book, Allberry (a pastor who struggles with same-sex attraction) teaches God’s position on the issue according to the Bible.  This is an excellent book that almost anyone can read and it is very timely for what is going on in our world.
 
Heaven is for Real by Lynn Vincent and Todd Burpo – I did not like the movie very much, but the book is excellent and thought provoking true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven.  He survives and begins talking about his experience to his parents.
 
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller – This book fundamentally reshaped the way I think about this famous passage from Luke 15.  Jesus told this story more for the “good” people of the world than for those who have strayed.
 
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – This Christian classic is an intellectual read, but Lewis does a masterful job explaining what Christianity is at its most foundational level.  If you can handle a heavier reading, this is a great book to read.
 
 1493 by Charles Mann – This is not a religious book and it’s long and it may not be for everyone.  However, this is a great book if you love history like me.  The book examines the dramatic ways our world changed as a result of Columbus’ discovery of the new world.  Everything from our food to where we lived was forever altered by what Mann calls the “Columbian exchange.”  It shifted my understanding of how our modern globalized world came into existence.

Endurance by Alfred Lancing – Another history book, Endurance chronicles the saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas.  The book made me think, “If this crew could survive this harrowing adventure, I can survive any struggle that may come my way.”
 
 Unbroken by Laura Hillderbrand – The riveting story of Olympian and WWII war hero Louis Zamperini’s life.  The book was recently made into a blockbuster movie, but the movie only scratches the surface of Zamperini’s life and leaves out critical portions of how Louis came to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade and latter spent his life facilitating a Christian Camp for troubled boys.  Do yourself a favor and choose the book over the movie.

 
More Great Books I Would Recommend:
·       Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel
·       The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
·       Words to Eat By by Ina Lipkowitz
·       Killing Jesus by Martin Dugard and Bill O’Reilly
·       Developing the Leader Within by John Maxwell
·       Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
·       Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
·       The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
·       Dune by Frank Herbert
·       Deliverance by James Dickey
·       The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Bob DeMoss and Rebecca Alonzo
·       The Unchurched Next Door by Thom Rainer
·       When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg
·       Alter Ego by Craig Groeshcel
·       The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
·       One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
·       Enough by Adam Hamilton
·       Radical by David Platt
·       The Pastor by Eugene Peterson
·       Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman
·       Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent
·       Crazy Love by Francis Chan
·       Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck
·       Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur
·       Patriotic Fire by Winston Groom
·       Plan B by Pete Wilson
 

 

Monday, March 23, 2015

3. Get Rid of Distractions

Copyright March 16, 2015 by Chris Mullis
John 2:13-16

Introduction
            Life is hectic.  There are so many demands on our attention.  Work demands our attention.  Telephones ring.  Kids need to be fed and shuttled to and from school and practice.  The church and PTA need volunteers.  We have appointments to make and deadlines to meet.  All these distractions make it difficult to focus on what’s really important.
            God knew our lives would be hectic.  That’s why He gave us a special day to rest and worship—the Sabbath Day.  In the beginning, the Sabbath was on the seventh day—Saturday—for on the seventh day of creation in Genesis, God rested.  But Jesus rose from the grave on a Sunday, which came to be called “The Lord’s Day.”  And it didn’t take long for almost all Christians to choose Sunday as their primary day for worship.
            So we come here to the “Sanctuary,” a place that is safe and holy, a place designated to worship God.  We seek to forget the cares and concerns of the world for a time and focus on Christ.  And as we do, we hope to find some clarity about what’s really important in life so we go back out into the hectic world centered and balanced once more.
            Many things distract us—things that aren’t really important, things that lead us astray, things that might be good, but just are not right for us at this time.  Most of us don’t take time to examine our lives close enough to determine what our priorities are.  So today I want to focus on getting rid of distractions in your life and focusing on the priorities God has set for you.  Let’s go to the Bible and look at a time when Jesus got rid of the distractions in the Temple.

John 2:13-16
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.
  • Jews all over the world in Jesus day dreamed of going to the Passover celebration in the Jerusalem Temple.  People came from all over the world.  It was not uncommon to have over 2 million people in the holy city for the Passover.  Throngs of people hoping to worship God on this sacred occasion.  Yet when they arrived,  they found a ruthless system designed to exploit them.  Every man 20 years and older had to pay a Temple tax, which was about a day and a half’s wages for the average man (roughly $150 by today’s standards) [i].  The money was used for the upkeep of the Temple and ongoing construction projects.  That’s not so bad.  It did take money to maintain the Temple.  But it got worse, because the tax couldn’t be paid in foreign money. The Roman, Greek, and Egyptian coins most people carried had to be converted to Temple money—the Shekel.  There were money changers stationed all over the Temple for this purpose and each one charged for their services.  What it all boiled down to is it could cost you an additional $100 just to change your money to the right currency!  It angered Jesus that such a heavy burden was laid upon these already poor, working class people.
15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
  • As if the exorbitant fees of the money changers weren’t bad enough, it got even worse.  You see, most people visiting the Temple would need to sacrifice an animal during worship.  If you were poor, you could buy a pair of doves to sacrifice for about $100 if you bought them outside the Temple (or you could bring your own).  But all animals had to be inspected by the Temple authorities to make sure there weren’t any blemishes (and it cost $25 to get the inspection).  And (who would’ve guessed) almost all animals bought or brought from outside the Temple would inevitably fail inspection.  Not to worry though.  You could buy a replacement inside the Temple—at an additional cost.  The same pair of doves that cost $100 outside the Temple cost $1,875 inside the Temple[ii]! (And you thought the markup on movie theater popcorn was bad!)
  • And of course all this buying and selling and the inevitable arguments and angry people being ripped off was an unbearable distraction to worship.  And it took place in the Temple in the court of the Gentiles—which was the only place Gentiles were allowed to worship God.  Jewish people had other places to worship, but Gentiles only had this raucous outer courtyard in which to pray.  Jesus was filled with righteous anger and he chased everyone out.
Distractions and Purpose
            Our world is full of distractions and if we’re not careful, our lives can become consumed with things that have little or nothing to do with why God put us here.  Like the noisy, busy money changers and livestock sellers in the Temple, these distractions rob us of our time and money—something of which we already have too little.  Perhaps it’s time to purify our lives just as Jesus cleansed the Temple.  You have to decide:  Do you want to waste your precious resources on things that ultimately aren’t important or do you want to spend your time and money on things that really matter?
In 2002, Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, wrote an amazing book called The Purpose Driven Life that lays out the 5 main purposes for your life.  If you aim for these, you will do things that matter and you will find great fulfillment as you live out God’s purposes for your life: [iii]     
1.     You were made to worship God.  You weren’t put here for your own pleasure.  You were  How much of your time and money do you spend worshipping God? put here to glorify God, to love Him, and to be amazed by Him.

2.     You weren’t meant to be alone.  You were made to be part of God’s family, where you are loved, accepted, encouraged, and held accountable.  You need good people in your life and they need you.  How much of our resources are devoted to relationships with the family of God, the Church?

3.     You were created to become like Christ.  You are here to learn and improve your character.  This life is an incredible training program to prepare your soul to be the image of God.  Don’t pretend to be perfect.  Be real about your shortcomings and be willing to work on them.  How hard do you train to become more like Christ?

4.     You are here to serve.  Even Jesus said he came into the world to serve and not to be served.  How much more true it is for you!  It might seem counter-intuitive to find happiness by serving others, but you were designed to serve; and in doing so you will find great fulfillment.  How much of your life is devoted to serving other?

5.     You were made for a mission—to tell people what Jesus has done for you.  Jesus commanded us to do this and promised to help.  You don’t have to be a preacher or Sunday school teacher to do it.  You just have to be honest and share your experience.  If Jesus has changed your life, tell people.  If he hasn’t changed your life (or if you don’t think he will), why are you even here? 

Examine Your Life
            I think Rick Warren nailed it with these five purposes.  Maybe you don’t agree, but have you ever really examined your life to see what it’s all about?  What on earth are you here for?  You have a purpose.  What is it?  And are you doing things that move you closer to your goals or distract you from them?
Most people never take the time to consider these things.  They just float along the river of life, going wherever the current leads.  It’s sad to think of all that could be accomplished if people would just wake up from their slumber and start living out their purpose.  If only people would come alive and choose to live for a higher purpose, the world would be forever changed.

            The violence Jesus demonstrated as he cleansed the Temple often disturbs people.  It upsets our image of Jesus as a meek, peaceful holy man.  We like the Jesus who gently welcomed children and carried lambs in his arms.  Who is this Jesus who angrily chased the money changers from the Temple while cracking a whip? 
            When it comes to things that distract us from God and thus do damage to our soul, we need to be more like the Jesus carrying the whip than the Jesus carrying the lamb.  The story conveys the seriousness of distractions.  They need to be dealt with now.  Chase away those things that rob your life of significance.  Turn over the tables of anything that keeps you from God’s purposes.  Drive away the animals that cannot help you fulfill God’s plan.  Reject a fallen world that tells you to get in line with everyone else that’s wasting their life.  Turn instead to the Lord who created you who wants to free you to live a life full of meaning.  For if you don’t you will surely spend your whole life doing things that don’t really matter and will have no lasting value.  You will come to your end full of regrets, wondering how time slipped away so fast, and lamenting that your life didn’t really matter much.
 Challenge
            Thus far in this series, I have given you 2 challenges:  1) Start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter every day and finish Matthew by Easter.  2) Last week, I challenged you to make a list of all the things you typically do and your motives. 
            Today, I give you a new challenge to help you purify your life.  This week, I want you to prayerfully consider your priorities.  What are you trying to accomplish in life?  What’s your purpose?  Write down the 5 most important purposes of your life.  (A form is included at the bottom of the blog to help you.)  And then for each one, write down things you can do that will help you fulfill those purposes.  Then pray and ask God to help you make these top priorities in your life—the things to which you devote the majority of your time, money, and resources.  Then zealously get rid of anythings that distract you so you will have enough time to do more important things.

Invitation
            The most important thing you can do to start is ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.  If you haven't done that already, why don't you do that today?  Pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you for your sin and for trying to do things you won way.  Ask Jesus to come be the Lord of your life--to be in charge.  And ask Him to lead you and help you follow Him from this day forward.

I Challenge You!
Step One.  List the 5 Most Important Purposes of Your Life:
 
Purpose 1 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 2 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 3 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 4 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 5_____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 2.  Now, go back and under each purpose list some things you can do to help you fulfill each purpose.
 
Step 3.  Pray and ask God to help you make these top priorities in your life—the things to which you devote the majority of your time, money, and resources.


[i] William Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of John Colume 1 revised edition; page 109
[ii] William Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of John Colume 1 revised edition; page 109
[iii] Based on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life

Monday, March 16, 2015

2. Get Rid of Selfish Motives


Copyright March 10, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Mark 8:31-38

Introduction
            The Season of Lent, which is the 40 day period leading up to Easter, is a great time to take stock of your life.  We derive this 40-day period from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting as he prepared to begin his public ministry.  Fasting is depriving your physical body of food to help induce a more spiritual experience.  Some people give up food or other things during Lent to help them focus more on their relationship with God.  But the whole point is to get rid of anything in your life that distracts you from what’s most important—a pure relationship with Christ.
stock of your life.
            Last Sunday, we started a message series to help you purify your life and draw closer to Christ.  Just as we cleaned up our church building last week, we seek to clean up our lives so we can better focus on the Lord.  Last week, I encouraged you to spend more time reading the Bible.  I challenged you to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter every day—and so read the entire Book of Matthew by Easter.  Today, I want to challenge you to get rid of selfish motives.  Let’s read together what Jesus had to say about selfish motives.

Mark 8:31-38
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.
  • Jesus begins by explaining God’s master plan to save humanity from sin and its consequences.  Sin leads to pain and death and eternal separation from God.  When I was a kid, my church explained all this in simple terms that I could easily understand.  They said, “Everyone sins and falls short of God’s glorious standards.  And the consequences of sin are death.  When you die, you will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.  Because we all sin, we all deserve Hell—which is an eternal punishment you can’t even imagine.  But because God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to save us.  And if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and follow him, we will spend eternity in Heaven—where there will be no more sin or suffering or sickness or tears or death.  This salvation is made possible because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  And here in this passage before it ever happens, Jesus explains the Master’s plan.
32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
  • Peter did not want Jesus to die.  In general, we don’t want anyone to die—especially people we love.  But let’s not pass over this too quickly or we will miss something important about Peter’s motive.  Why doesn’t Peter want Jesus to die?
    • First of all, it didn’t make sense to Peter.  His vision was too small.  People tend to have very limited perspective.  We think in terms of what’s going on in our lives, right now.  Not many of us have a greater vision to think about what will be happening ten years from now or even one year from now.  And we rarely think very much about what’s going on in other people’s lives or what will be going on in their lives in the years ahead.  We are pretty focused on ourselves in the here and now.  But God thinks in broader terms.  He sees the here and now, but also one year from now, ten years from now, and ten thousand years from now.  Consider this:  as Jesus explained his plan to his disciples in this passage 2,000 years ago, he was thinking how you would be sitting here in this church right now contemplating it.  He saw how his actions would directly affect you, your children, grandchildren and your descendants another 1,000 years from today.  But Peter’s vision was small.  And Peter didn’t want Jesus to die because Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t want harm to come to him.  
    • Peter didn’t want to lose Jesus.  This is one type of love (from the Greek word for love: phileo—which we studied a few weeks ago).  It is a somewhat selfish kind of love.  It is more about our desires than the actual wants and needs of the one we “love.”  This is a common form of love we see throughout the world.  You see, Peter did not want to be apart from Jesus.  Maybe he even felt he couldn’t bear to be without Jesus if he died.  This kind of love is motivated more by what Peter wants than what Jesus wants or even what is best for Jesus or the world.  But the highest form of love is another Greek word often used in the Bible: Agape.  Agape is the love that abandons its own selfish desires and works for the good of others, with no conditions and without any expectation of receiving something in return.  This is the love that motivated Jesus to die on the cross for our sin.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
  • It might seem strange that Jesus would rebuke Peter so sternly—even calling him Satan.  Yet, Peter’s motives were selfish.  There was a type of love in him, but it was mixed with impurity too.  In fact, what Peter was doing was not much different from what Satan once did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  When Jesus went into the wilderness fasting for 40 days in Matthew chapter 4, Satan tempted him to eat something.  “Tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)  And Satan offered to give Jesus “All the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (verses 8-9), if only Jesus would bow down and worship Satan.  Peter wasn’t asking Jesus to bow down and worship him, but he was asking Jesus to bend away from God’s perfect salvation plan in favor of Peter’s lesser, worldly desires.  In Peter’s eyes, Jesus was on the verge of a gaining the popular support of the people; couple that with Jesus’ amazing power and Peter thought they could set up an earthly Kingdom of unequaled justice and righteousness.  But this was not God’s plan.  So Jesus said to Peter almost the same thing he said to Satan in the wilderness.  “Get away from me, Satan!”  And then Jesus explains the pure motives that must guide our thoughts and actions if we are his followers.

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Jesus taught being his follower means getting rid of our selfish motives and letting Agape love motivate everything we do.  Just as Jesus was willing to lay down his own life for the sake of others, we should do what’s best for others—even if they don’t deserve it or plan to do anything for us.  What a difference it makes when you finally decide to get rid of your selfish motives and let Love guide all your actions! 

What Motivates You?
            Why do you come to church?  Why do you go to work? Why do you support your wife and kids?  Why do you do the things you do?  There are many different motives for the things we do.  And sometimes our motives are not too pure.  I suppose we would be here all day if we tried to list them all.  So I’ll just list the first four that come to mind.
The first is pseudo-love.  We already talked about how Peter “loved” Jesus and didn’t want to lose him.  I call this “pseudo-love” because it is “like” love, but it is not Agape Love (the selfless, unconditional love God wants us to practice).  It is the love of a mother who “smothers” her children—who loves them so much, she can’t give them the space they need to grow into individuals, but must hover over them at all times.  The truth is, helicopter parents practice a selfish kind of love.  Really, they are using their kids to satisfy a deep longing in their own lives.  And this is not true love.  It is not the motive God wants us to have.  And if this is the kind of love that motivates you—whether you be a helicopter parent, a jealous boyfriend (or girlfriend or just friend), or anyone who is motivated by your own intense desires for the companionship of someone else, you need to get rid of your false motive.
Another false motive is greed.  Are you motivated by your intense longing for more wealth, possessions, or power?  Do you always want to have the latest gadget, the biggest house, the fanciest car?  Do you always feel like no matter how good the stuff you already have is you always need something a little better?  These are all forms of greed, which is a powerful motivation in our society.  But God doesn’t want us to be motivated by greed.  Perhaps you need to get rid of this false motive.
Pride.  Are you overly concerned about preserving your own dignity?  Do you have an excessively high opinion of your importance?  Or conversely, are you always concerned with what others think about you?  These are all forms of pride, arrogance, vanity…  The Bible does not speak highly of pride.  Rather, Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”  Jesus listed pride as one of the vile things that comes from an evil heart—alongside adultery, greed, and wickedness (Mark 7:22).  If Pride, vanity, self-importance, or arrogance motivates your actions, it’s time to get rid of your false motives.
Control.  Do you always need to be in control?  Does everything have to be done a certain way—your way?  Do you have to be intimately involved in every decision your kids or your spouse makes?  Is it almost impossible for you to delegate responsibilities to someone else because you’re afraid they won’t do it the way you would?  Do you find it incredibly annoying to work with others as a team because you’d rather just do it your own way?  If you find it unnerving to let go of control, then it’s probably time to get rid of your false motive of control.  Let me let you in on little secret.  You are not in control anyway.  And all your annoying efforts to keep things “under control” are not pleasing to God.  It’s time to stop trying to run the world around you and learn to trust God (and other people too).
One more—pleasure.  We live in a world that says, “If it makes you happy, do it.”  “Follow your own heart.”  “Have it your way.”  It sounds harmless, but if the desire for pleasure motivates you, you need to get rid of this false motive.  God calls us to be motivated by love.  And quite often real love motivates us to do things that are not pleasurable—sometimes things that are very hard.  That’s why when we get married, we promise to love our spouse “In good times and bad times, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, until death …” I’m so Glad Jesus wasn’t motivated by the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  For it was not pleasurable to hang on the cross for our sins.  And yet, because he loved us, this is exactly what he did.  What about you?  Perhaps it’s time to get rid of your false motives. 

Challenge
            Last week, I challenged you to read your Bible more—to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter a day.  I hope you have accepted my challenge and have been reading.  If not, it’s not too late to start today.
This week, I want to give you a new challenge to add to the one from last week.  This week, I want you to make a list of what motivates you to do the things you do.  Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper.  Prayerfully list out all the things you typically do each day.  Be specific.  Get up and take a shower, take the kids to school, go to work, talk to a friend on the phone, go to the grocery store, cook dinner, etc.  Now think deeply about why you do these various things.  What is your motive for each one?  Why do you do it?  Right down your motives for each thing.  Ask yourself:  are my motives pure?  Would Jesus be happy about my motive for doing this?  How much is this motivated by pure love (Agape)?  What motives do I need to get rid of?  How might I let my actions be guided more by love?  I challenge you to make a list this week and pray that God would help you be motivated more by love.