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Hosting Shane Willard (2013)

Shane Willard

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Hosting Shane Willard (2013) (Shane Willard)

Turn off the Dark (Shane Willard)
Sermon on the mount: don't get what you need by judging others, or by manipulation - simply ask, seek and knock - be clear. Be aware of how your concept of God affects how you treat others. "Knowing God" is directly tied to how you treat other people. Don't follow teachers, whose teachings destroy your life - if it isn't working, then dump it.
Jesus assumes a community that can talk through darkness, with the sole purpose of bringing light to it. Gossip makes us consumed with self-preservation, and destroys that necessary environment of openness and honesty. When we neglect correction, we are on a slippery slope to destruction. You don't have to fall on purpose; you just have to live with no feedback, and destruction will be a natural part of your life.

Live with Purpose (Men's Breakfast) (Shane Willard)
Ghenna was the town rubbish dump (a present reality), and Hades is an afterlife (a future reality), in English its Hell. When we think of Hell, we tend to think about: them (in the future); but in the vast majority of Jesus' teachings, Hell was: us (in the present). Heaven & Hell are both true, and both occupied, in the here/now. They are also both true of another place in the future, which is also occupied, by real people. Jesus' emphasis was far, far, far more on one, instead of the other. When you take care of the poor and the afflicted, that is what it means to know God.
Your intentions are just the starting point. Pure motives, and consistent obedience, mixed with focussed intentions, will lead you to a life that cannot be shaken. What are you rationalising today, that you'll regret tomorrow? One yes requires a thousand NO's. You can never beat sin by fighting sin. Instead you beat sin by empowering something else. The power that you give something else overcomes the sin. Have you ever lost your ability to enjoy what God's given you, because you've compared it to somebody else? Can you clearly define what you want?

Are You Worthy (1 of 2) (Shane Willard)
There are four verses in the Bible that say homosexuality's wrong. There are 2000 verses in the Bible that tell us to love each other, so maybe we've got our emphasis wrong? Who is worthy to break the seals, and open the scrolls? But no one in heaven - so there's people already in heaven, who aren't worthy - no one in heaven, or earth, or under the earth, could open the scroll, or even look inside of it.
Jesus' invitation was not to be a certain way, in order to go somewhere. Jesus' invitation was to allow what is somewhere else to be established in you right now. The "Flames of Heaven" is God's relentless pursuit, to make you the best you can be in His kingdom, without taking your free will away. Hell will let you stay greedy, heaven won't; Hell will let you stay racist, heaven won't - lots of fire in heaven.
Jesus' message for His followers is this: get in line with God's kingdom today, as fast as you can, urgently. I urge you to do this. The whole world's at stake.A disciple is someone actively participating with God, to establish His kingdom on the earth

Are You Worthy (2 of 2) (Shane Willard)
Grace, by definition, isn't fair. Heaven consumes in flames any ideas of rank. To avoid the flames of heaven, we have to die to the idea that God must be fair. If heaven invaded your life today, who would you have to accept, that you now see as unacceptable? Jesus described heaven as tormenting to those who don't forgive. Jesus is at the centre, and everybody's equidistant around Him, because no one was worthy to begin with. There's always someone that's done less than me, but Heaven includes us all in a circle.
Heaven is not created by the exclusion of imperfect people, but by the inclusion of imperfect people - by grace cleaning them up, purifying them with the flames of heaven. If heaven invaded our life today, we would be overwhelmed with how much it's not about us, and not care where we ranked; we would simply be overwhelmed with God's presence. Why not let that part of heaven be established in you right now?

Be the Salt and Light (Shane Willard)
There are 6 mentions of fire in hell, but 229 mentions of fire in heaven! If you walked into heaven tomorrow, what parts of you would be burned up? 15 of 18 of Jesus mentions of hell, was about us, here, now. It's about: what are you bringing to the earth? How's your lust problem? How's your anger problem? Do you call people fools? How is fear of man instead of fear of God? What are you bringing to the earth?

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Turn off the Dark (Shane Willard)  

Fri 15 Mar 2013 AM « Back to Top

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Sermon on the mount: don't get what you need by judging others, or by manipulation - simply ask, seek and knock - be clear. Be aware of how your concept of God affects how you treat others. "Knowing God" is directly tied to how you treat other people. Don't follow teachers, whose teachings destroy your life - if it isn't working, then dump it.

Jesus assumes a community that can talk through darkness, with the sole purpose of bringing light to it. Gossip makes us consumed with self-preservation, and destroys that necessary environment of openness and honesty. When we neglect correction, we are on a slippery slope to destruction. You don't have to fall on purpose; you just have to live with no feedback, and destruction will be a natural part of your life.

Matthew, Chapter 7. This is the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is preaching a sermon. I started to get fascinated with Jesus as a sermon preacher, because I became friends with some atheists - agnostics really. What I found, once I became their friend, is that they hadn't rejected Jesus at all; they had just rejected the image of Jesus that was presented to them. There's a big difference by the way; and so as I got talking to them about this, the way I had to approach Jesus with them is: Jesus as a teacher of a way to live; because they really weren't buying the whole: He was born of a virgin thing. They really weren't buying the whole: He's the Son of God thing.

That didn't make much sense to them, and the reason it didn't make much sense is partly because, when they were kids, the way it was presented was horrible. So they sort of learned away from that, but they were totally willing to look at someone's philosophy of living, and what I did when I sat down with them is, they got so fascinated with Jesus' way of living, that they now have both submitted their lives to living the way Jesus lived. They came to me and they said: if Jesus is as nice as you make Him seem, then He won't mind us living the way He wants us to live, while we work out the whole God thing. I said: no, He won't, that'd be great.

So it's very important to look at the Sermon on the Mount as a sermon. It's very inappropriate to pick one thing out of a sermon, and make it say something that the sermon isn't saying. So that's very inappropriate. Let's say in his life, he had to give one of his children 12 spankings okay, just in their whole life - 12 spankings, and they needed it right, so he had to do that. Let's say I was there for all 12 times, and I took a video of it right; then someone later said: hey, do you know this guy? I said: yes, I know this guy. Well, what kind of dad is he? I say: you know, I don't know what kind of dad he is, but I have video - let's check the video. So I plug the video camera in, and on this video camera is all 12 spankings that he gave his kid. Is that fair to him as a father?

[No.] No, no, because it doesn't take into account the reason why, the context. It doesn't take into account what he was trying to prune off his kid's life, so they don't ruin their life at 30. It doesn't take into account that he's up at 5am every day blessing his children; doesn't take into account that his children love him to this day; it doesn't take into account all of these things - so it's totally inappropriate when people do that with God all the time. They take this one little scripture out, and they make it everything; like it is inappropriate to preach Josiah 1 without Josiah 3. Josiah 1 says: I will break your back. You will regret the day you were ever born. You are never going to be my people. I will never forgive you, you will surely be cast off from my presence. It sounds horrible!

That's Josiah 1, but Josiah 3, says this: To those of you I said: you're not My people - you're My people. To those of you I said: I'd break your back - I would never hurt you. To those of you I said: I would never forgive - I'll forgive you. To those of you I said: I'll hold your stuff against you forever - I will never hold your stuff against you forever, for I am a God, and not a man. By Josiah 11, He says this: oh how could I ever have turned My back on you, oh Israel, for you are My people. You cannot preach Josiah 1 without reading to the end, and at least giving that credence. And so this is one of those scriptures that gets taken by itself, and it becomes horrible. This is the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and this is what it says:

Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.

Now if you grow up in white-people church, you instantly when you read this, get images of what two things? Heaven and hell. The problem with that is that there's no mention of heaven anywhere in this sermon; nor is there a mention, anywhere close to this, of anything resembling hell. To make this statement about heaven and hell, you have to remove the statement entirely from the context of the sermon He was preaching. You can't do that - and if you do that, Christianity's message gets entirely uncompelling. All of a sudden, our message becomes: unfortunately, most of the world is doomed. Oh, join us! That is such a positive, uplifting, hope-giving, love-inducing message: most people are doomed, unfortunately. No! Of course not! This is a part of a sermon. Now to understand the sermon, you have to understand the euphemisms, and the figures of speech within the culture. First: light, life and increase. Light, life and increase, these are three synonymous words, that are used in Hebrew culture, that talk about anything that brings your life to: wholeness, abundance and shalom. It is synonymous to a realm of living that means you're choosing God's ways - life, light and increase.

The second group of words is this: death, darkness, decrease. Death, darkness, decrease is a realm of life that brings you away from wholeness, and towards disrepair okay? Away from wholeness, and towards disrepair. Death, darkness, decrease. In the Torah, you were given choices all the time. It says: I give you this day two choices; choose life instead of death, blessings instead of curses, increase instead of decrease. It wasn't talking about literally dying. It's talking about: choose to live in God's way, so that you enter into the realm of life. Choose away from death, and towards life. Choose away from destruction, and towards wholeness. Jesus is simply making an observation about life, and He's simply saying: most people don't have what it takes to stay on the high road. Most people don't have what it takes; and that's true of every area. How many people, percentage-wise are winning financially? Very, very few. Very, very few. As a matter of fact, one recently survey in US News World Report said: that for every dollar we make, we're spending $1.02, which that means this: normal is broke. Most people aren't winning financially.

What percentage of marriages are mutually enriching, mutually edifying, mutually uplifting? What percentage of marriages are actually thriving? Very little. If your marriage is thriving - you are awesome, that is great! You are in a blessed minority. 50% of marriages end in divorce, another 25% are just holding on. You're talking about a one in five proposition! Jesus is essentially stating the obvious. He's saying: this life I'm talking about, most people do not have what it takes. Most people don't have what it takes to bless their enemies. Most people don't have what it takes to de-escalate criticism and strife. Most people don't have what it takes to be a peacemaker. Most people don't have what it takes to always forgive. Most people don't have what it takes to turn the other cheek. Most people don't have what it takes to do what I'm talking about doing. Most people.

This is a sermon. What I find fascinating about this sermon, is that there are thousands of people in attendance, and He does not end it with an altar-call. I find that fascinating - He does not end this sermon this way. He doesn't end it by saying: now here's what we're going to do at the end of this sermon. I'm going to give you an opportunity to come forward, and accept Me in your heart as your Lord and saviour; and we've got this specific prayer that hasn't been made up yet. If you'll just pray it, you'll have your ticket-punched, and one day you'll get to go somewhere else. That's not how He ends the sermon. As a matter of fact, He doesn't give an altar-call at all! What's wrong with Jesus? Does He not care about people's souls? He's got thousands of people in front of Him, and He doesn't do that? What's wrong with Him?

Instead, He ends the sermon with a question - He simply says this: If you hear these words of Mine, and you put them into practice, you'll find that it's going to solidify your life; and no matter what storms in life you face, you're going to find that you're going to land on your feet. But if you hears these words of Mine, and do not put them into practice, you're going to find that it's going to make your life very shaky - like a sandy foundation. No matter what storms you face in life, you're going to tend to land on your face.

Essentially He's saying: the people who listen and do - they face the same obstacles as people who listen and don't do; but the people who listen and do, tend to land on their feet. People who listen and don't, do tend to land on their face. He ends the sermon with a choice: feet or face, rock or sand? He ends it with a lifestyle choice.

Now here is the basic flow of thought, every sermon has a basic flow of thought. So essentially this is Jesus' outline okay, so this is this scripture in context. First thing He says in the flow of thought is: don't get what you want from others by judging them. Judge not, lest you be judged. In other words, don't try to get what you need from others by judging them; a good wife would do this! Don't you love it when your husband says that to you? Because now that you feel like total crap, you'll just do what he wants, and love him? Of course not, that doesn't really work right? He says: don't get what you need by judging. Then He says: don't get what you need by manipulation. Once people figure out you're manipulating them, they'll turn on you and eat you alive - don't do that.

Then He says: simply ask, seek and knock - be clear. So the first part of His sermon He says: don't get what you need by judging. This is directly tied to how you treat other people. The second thing He says is: don't get what you need from others by manipulation. This is directly tied to how you treat other people. Third thing He says is: when you need something from someone, just simply ask, seek and knock; in other words be clear. Just, if you need help - just ask. There's a big difference between saying: sweetie, I really need help with the dishes, would you mind helping me? And: I wish SOMEONE would help me around here! Those are two different things - one is manipulation, one is clearly asking, seeking and knocking.

Then He says: be aware of how your God-concept affects how you treat others. Essentially He says: when you ask your heavenly Father for a piece of bread, does He give you a rock? No, God doesn't play those games. Essentially the point He's making, is that it's very important that we become aware of how our God-concept affects how we treat other people. Jesus' disciples dealt with this.

There's this story in Luke 9, where Jesus sends His disciples to the next city to prepare the way, while He finished up in one city; and then as He was going there, they meet Him on the way out. He says: what happened? They said: well unfortunately, these people won't accept You. Would You like us to call down fire from heaven and destroy them now? And it says that Jesus rebuked them for their heart attitude. In other words, it would be a horrible thing if followers of Jesus ever thought Jesus' goal was to destroy people who don't accept Him. The Jesus I read about forgives His enemies. He turns the other cheek. He even prays, and blesses, and forgives people who nailed Him to a cross, and beat Him half to death on the way there. That's the kind of Jesus I serve; but if I believe that Jesus wants to destroy people, then that's how I'll come across. It will affect how I talk to other people. He says: be aware of this - be aware. If God tortures people, then you're going to think its okay for you to torture people - and by the way, in the 1860s, the church condoned the beatings of black people, because they were less human in America. I'm sure that didn't happen here. I'm sure there's no racism in New Zealand right? No, that doesn't happen here. If God's a racist, then it's okay for you to be a racist. If God does things then it's okay, see?

It says: don't get what you want by judging. Don't get what you want by manipulation, that's how you treat others. Simply ask, seek and knock - how you treat others. Be aware of how your God concept affects how you treat others. And then He says: broad is the road that leads to destruction; narrow is the way that leads to life. Does it stand to reason, that it might be talking about how you treat others, considering that everything before that is talking about how you treat others? But it keeps going, gets better. Then He says: don't follow teachers whose teachings destroy your life. If it isn't working dump it. Essentially He says: if what someone's teaching you, is leading your life to a bad place, then dump it. If it isn't working, don't keep doing it. It's Jesus being a First-Century, Middle-Eastern, hippie Dr Phil! Then He says: many will say to me in that day - Lord, Lord; and I'll say - I just don't know you. So Jesus then indicates, that at the end of the day, there's a lot of people who think they're in - but they're actually out!

Then He gets really scary, because He goes on to describe Pentecostal leaders. He says: these are people who've called Me Lord; they cast out devils; they perform miracles; and they prophesied. These are the people who are in trouble. Eeesh! Sounds like me, sounds like you, sounds like Pentecostal leaders. I mean honestly, Baptists from Cleveland, they're safe right? He says: many will say to me in that day - Lord, Lord; and I'll say: I just don't know you.

The problem is, there's only one scripture in the whole Bible that defines what it means to know God, and that is Jeremiah 22:16. It says: he took care of the poor and the afflicted, so it will go well for him. Is this not what it means to know Me, declares the Lord your God? So once again, knowing God was directly tied to how you treated other people. In the New Testament it's the same. 1 John 4:7 - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. So knowing God in the New Testament was directly tied to how you treated other people.

Then He just says this: Don't just hear these things - they're obvious - Do them! And He tells this incredible story about a guy that builds his house on the rock, and no matter what comes against him - the house stands. Then He tells a story about a guy who builds his house on sand, and no matter what comes against him - the house falls down; and He says: this is what your life will be like, if you hear these words of Mine, and then don't do them. But if you hear these words of Mine, and put them into practice - it's going to solidify your life.

So here's the flow of thought: Don't get what you want by judging (that's how you treat other people). Don't get what you want by manipulation (how you treat others). Simply ask, seek and knock (how you treat others). Be aware of how your God-concept affects how you treat others (it's how you treat others). Broad roads and narrow ways (talking about how you treat others). Don't follow teachers whose teachings destroy your life (directly tied to how you treat others). Please be in a pursuit of God (totally tied to how you treat others); and then don't just hear these things - they're obvious - do them!

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another - just as the Lord, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you. How obvious is that advice? Pretty obvious! How much better would your life be if you did that all the time? A lot! How many of you wish people treated you like that all the time? Everybody! How many people actually do that? Very few, even though it's obvious.

Broad is the road. There's lots of things in life where, everybody seems to be going right, and you just know you need to go left. Essentially Jesus is teachings are simply this: if everyone is doing something, it's a good sign you should be doing something else. Most people aren't on the right road.

Now what I want to do now is, I want to talk about something very important to becoming a Christ-follower. I want to talk about a narrow-road thing. Now before we get into this, I want to be very clear: most people cannot do this. You have to be pretty special to put this into practice. Most people will find themselves on the broad road with this - and I'm okay with that - because it was true in Jesus' day, it'll be true now, it'll be true 3000 years from now. Most people cannot do, what I'm fixing to tell you to do.

However, that doesn't mean it's not the best thing for your life; and it doesn't mean that the people who are doing it, aren't experiencing something, that people who aren't doing it cannot imagine. This is something Jesus speaks about, that He is urging His followers to do. Let me put part of what Jesus is saying into context. Do you reckon you're going to enjoy heaven? Really? I challenge you to go back and re-read every single thing Jesus ever said about heaven, and ask yourself the question: would you like it if you went there tomorrow? For instance Jesus said: in heaven, all the secret conversations of your heart will be revealed for all to see. You want to go there? So right now, if you're thinking: this guy's so boring, I can't wait to go home and watch NCIS - if we were in heaven, there would be a billboard up where everybody could see it. If you're a racist, and you die and you go to heaven, and you wake up at a table with every tribe, tongue and race - are you in heaven or hell?

When Jesus talked about heaven, He talked about it confrontationally. Essentially Jesus' invitation was not: here's how to go somewhere else. Jesus' invitation is: here's what heaven looks like, and the good news is that heaven is going to come to earth one day, and that is a blessed hope that we all look forward to, because death does not win. So heaven's going to come to earth one day. Here's what heaven looks like. I'm urging you to go ahead and align your life with it now, so that when you do walk into heaven one day, you don't get whiplash. That'd be awesome! The goal isn't to go to heaven one day. The goal is: if you walked into heaven tomorrow, what parts of your life would survive, and what parts of your life will be burned up?

This is one of these broad roads and narrow ways things. This is one of these areas where Jesus is describing the kingdom of heaven, and it is so challenging. Here's what He says: If your brother or sister sins, then go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. We're already on a narrow road aren't we? How many people can get hurt, and physically have the courage, and the faith, and the discipline, to just keep it between two people? Very few! Jesus said: this is the best life - just between the two of you. And if they listen, then you have won them over, but if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. I love this.

He's like: if someone hurts you, deal with it between the two of you; and if you can't come to agreement, bring two or three other people; because sometimes when people's feelings get involved, your objectivity goes away, and sometimes it helps to bring people in who aren't emotionally connected to the situation. Sometimes those people can bring great wisdom to it. It's good to do that, right? He keeps going: and if they still refuse to listen tell it to the church. If they refuse to listen to the church treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Now which leads me to this question. How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? He was their friend. That was the Pharisees biggest problem with Him, was that He loved tax collectors and sinners.

So essentially He says: if someone hurts you try to keep it between the two of you. If they won't listen to you one-on-one, then go get two or three at most, and sort of keep it within a small group of people. But if that doesn't work, then take it to the church. By the way, in those days big churches like this didn't exist, mostly because of resources and transportation issues. Churches in those days were roughly 20 people, and they were meeting under one roof, and I'm glad we've progressed to this. I mean, this is a good thing; but back then, taking it to the church does not mean announcing it to the front of the stage. Taking it to the church meant: take it to the people you're journeying the closest with, and this has to come out of relationship. If you don't know their children's names, then you have no right to speak into their life okay? So He says: take it to your small group, and if they won't listen to them then treat them like tax collectors and sinners. If someone hurts you, keep it one-on-one if possible. If not, take it to two or three; and if that doesn't work, take it to your small group of close knit friends, who are journeying with God together. If that doesn't work, then love them to pieces. Treat them like tax collectors and sinners.

See if you read "treat them like tax collectors and sinners", and your instant thought is: cast them out, then to hell with you! I hope you like fire! If that is what you think when you read this, that tells me a lot of about your God concept. It tells you that deep in your heart, you think God wants to destroy people. Jesus was a friend to tax collectors and sinners; so Jesus is saying: hey, if this doesn't work - then love them.

He keeps going: Truly I tell you - whatever you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven. In other words, before time God's kingdom rules; after time God's kingdom rules. The beginning of time centred around a tree; the end of time centres around a tree. In the beginning of time, everything is submitted to God; at the end of time, everything is submitted to God. In the middle, God gives men their own kingdom, and the problem is that He gave you a kingdom, and me a kingdom, and hopefully our kingdoms don't butt up against one another.

So for the time being, He's essentially saying: you're in charge of what your environment is like. If you don't handle this properly, you're going to find your environment getting very chaotic - and it's not My fault, and it's not Satan's fault - it's your fault. Again, truly I tell you, that if two of you on earth agree about anything, and ask for it - it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. If two or three gather in My name, there I am in the midst of them. Now a couple of really big basic understandings. Alright first, to understand this you have to understand the Hebrew concept of Ahad. Now I'm not going to go through this too much, because I've taught it here before, but Ahad is essentially the teaching that God is unity in diversity. It's a special word that means unity in diversity. It's from Deuteronomy 6:4 - Hear, O Israel, The Lord your God, the Lord is one! Ahad - that God is lots, but He's also one. A later writer was trying to figure out where Christ was, and where Christ isn't; and finally he threw his hands up in the air, and he says: for I have concluded that Christ is all, and is in all things.

And so sometimes we make God very narrow, whereas the writers of the Bible make Jesus very, very big; and so Ahad is essentially unity in diversity - that everything out of God is one, but it's also diverse. Creation is out of God, therefore it's diverse, yet it's one, and every small part affects the whole. If ocean temperatures heat up nine degrees - what would happen? There'd be a global meteorological disaster! The ocean temperatures have to co-operate with the rest of the earth; and if all of a sudden the earth decided to give up four per cent of its oxygen - what would happen? You would get light-headed and start to faint, then eventually you would lose your ability to maintain life on this planet. Every small bit of this planet has to participate with the rest of creation. That is Ahad. You are made in the image of God, therefore you are Ahad. Let me prove it to you. Anybody here ever had kidney stones, alright? You had kidney - somebody had kidney stones right? Did you go to work that day? No. Why? It's only one part of your body that's this big, are you a wimp? What's wrong with you? No, it's just this little bit. Everything else is fine, but your kidney goes sour - and you stay out of work. Everybody understands that. Why? Because if one small part of the body goes, it affects everything else. Ahad, this is unity within diversity.

Hebrew people believe that unity, or Ahad, was the force holding the universe together. The Bible says it this way: that God is holding the universe together. So if God is Ahad, and God is holding the universe together, then what force is holding the universe together? Ahad. So the principle is: you can't come against the very force that holds the universe together. Anything you're doing, that sets itself in opposition to Ahad, is setting you in opposition to the very thing that holds the universe together - and you can't do that.

That's the problem with adultery. The problem with adultery is not sex, for goodness sake. Two consenting adults, coming together in a pleasurable way - honestly, is that really the problem with adultery? No. The problem with adultery is, you're setting yourself in opposition to someone else's unity; and when you set yourself in opposition to someone else's unity, you're setting yourself in opposition to the very force that holds the universe together. If you set yourself in opposition to the force that holds the universe together, does it stand to reason that you yourself will be torn apart? That is Ahad.

The other thing is light and dark, which we already talked about. Light is anything that brings you to wholeness, and away from disrepair; Darkness is anything that brings you towards disrepair, and away from wholeness. Now let's look into this further. John 17:20, He says this: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message - that's us - that all of them may be one. Ahad. Father, just as you are in Me, and I am in You, may they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. I love that. Father, as you are in Me and I am in You, let them be in Us so that they can have great church services. No! So that they could have powerful meetings. No! So that they could have great Bible studies. No! He says: as You are in Me, and I am in You, let them be in Us, so that the world might believe. For followers of Jesus, our focus has to always be outward.

Now there's another problem with this. If we are Ahad, and all of us are living in this unity, then if one person goes awry - it creates a problem with our community doesn't it, just like in your body. If one part of your body goes awry - it's a real problem. Paul uses the body as an example, in Corinthians. He says: we are all like one body, and if one part suffers, the whole part suffers; and if one part wins, the whole part wins. So we have to look at ourself that way.

So here's the problem in that. When someone is acting in such a way that destroys their life, and someone says: I need to talk to you about this, you're destroying your life. If your response is: it is none of your business, it's just between me and God, it's my problem, then are you right? No. No. It's almost never between you and God. If it's just between you and God, then do whatever you'd like - God can handle you. It is never between you and God; it's between you and God, and your wife, and your children, and your co-workers, and your family, and your fellow church members, and your fellow believers in Jesus Christ, and the people close to you. It's between you and God, and everyone who touches you; that the ripples of it go further and further and further. If darkness is encompassing you, then it's affecting the entire environment of which you're in. Now if it affects you, then it affects them. Now let's talk through this, because these are some big concepts; so let's talk through it, and break it down to something that's more workable.

The life Jesus speaks of, in terms of establishing the kingdom here, assumes a couple of things, one being that people are willing to engage the darkness of others, without judgement or perpetuity. That you are so connected with fellow followers of Jesus, that you can openly talk about your faults, and vice versa. That there is a humility, and heart, to restore everyone - never judgement and hypocrisy - but love, for we are commanded to treat people as tax collectors and sinners - even in the worst case scenarios - which means to love them and be their friend.

What if we did this tomorrow? What if our life - now once again these are narrow-roads stuff - that people are willing to flood light into darkness with the purpose of restoration. If Jesus assumes a community that's so open, that when we see each other operating in darkness, that there can be an open dialogue between two people - and it's not for judgement, and it's not for elitism, and it's not for powering-up, and it's surely not for putting on Facebook or Twitter. Jesus assumes a community that can talk through darkness, and with the sole purpose of bringing light to it.

Now this requires three things: 1) it requires someone willing to engage someone else's darkness, with full commitment to help them fix the problem. 2) it requires a person who is open and teachable; and 3) it requires that both of them don't gossip and slander the other behind the other person's back.

Have you ever shared a secret with someone, and then heard it again? How do you feel when that happens? I shared a deep personal pain once, with someone I thought was my good friend, and then three months later I was asked about how I was going - from someone I had not told the problem to. So I asked her: where did you hear this from; and she said: oh, well they told me - they figured that was okay. The truth is, I probably would have told this other person myself, but the fact that they took that liberty violated me.

This life Jesus is talking about requires this: in order to establish the kingdom in your heart, this requires you to be open to being taught, corrected, disciplined; to be open to the feedback of others; to be open to someone else's point of view. You have to be open to that, and it also requires other people to be willing to engage the darkness, with full commitment to make it right. You're not engaging darkness just for darkness sake; you're engaging darkness to bring light to every single situation. It requires those two things, with both people with the heart attitude that we're not going to gossip, we're not going to perpetuate this. We are here to bring light into darkness.

What if we created an environment that was less focussed on fixing everyone, and more focussed on everything being in the light? What would happen to sin, and the power of it? Grace is far more harmful to sin than judgement; because grace lets it all come into the light, and then it loses its power. Judgement punishes sin; and creates an environment of hiding and strongholds, because you have to protect yourself. Grace says: we are all in this struggle together, let's all put our crap on the table, right here in the light; and through whatever level we are allowed to be genuine and expose our darkness, the darkness loses the power, because it's exposed in the light. What would happen then?

Let me say it another way. What would happen if we created an environment where we could confess what we wanted to do, before we actually did it; instead of waiting until we did it to confess our sins? What if we did that? What if we were allowed to mutually engage in each other's darkness to that level? This is where AA is my hero. I find AA so Christ-like in this one area. They create an environment where people can confess the sins they want to commit, even before they commit it, so that the sin loses its power. People who have a friendship circle like that tend to win. They just tend to win.

Let me read this scripture to you, this is Proverbs 25:2. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; and to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Two thoughts there: it is the glory of God to conceal a matter. When someone hurts you, you are giving glory to God if you keep it to yourself. That is powerful. To search out a matter is the glory of kings. Let's look at this even further: so 1) the life Jesus assumes, is that people are willing to engage the darkness of others, without judgement or perpetuity; 2) that people are willing to flood light into darkness, with the purpose of restoration, and not any other reason; 3) that you investigate the matter.

If you go back and look at the scripture, it says: if your brother sins; 'if' they sin. Circle it a hundred times in your Bible, circle it. IF they sin; it is very important that kingdom people make commitment to search out the matter. In other words, don't go on rumour, or story, or on any version of the truth. Go talk to the only person who could give you the straight story. That people that follow Jesus listen, and that people that follow Jesus are becoming the type of people that listen, when people kindly talk privately about their faults. Jesus followers actually crave this environment, and are willing to commit with the other person to help them solve it, and bring light to that situation, with no fear of their stuff being spread all over the place. Gossip is just terrible.

How about this: if people are willing to listen, and they crave engaging suffering and darkness, in order to make it right. So this requires us to ask a few questions about ourselves. 1) have you ever made poor assumptions about someone; and 2) has your judgement ever changed, when you got more information?

I mean we do this a lot. There's a lot of space in the head. As a matter of fact, subatomic, you know, quantum physics people say that you're actually 96 per cent empty space - so if someone ever calls you an air head, it's actually true. There's a lot of empty space in the head, a lot of room for imagination.

Has your imagination ever run wild? Like if your daughter's 15 years old, and you tell her to be home by midnight, and its 2.15 and she hasn't called - does your imagination go to the best case scenario, or the worst? It gets even sillier, like how active is our imagination? They haven't returned my call! It's been eight minutes. Is there something up? They're late. They haven't returned this email. Are they ignoring me? Maybe they didn't get it. We always assume the worst. They said something mean, and it has to be about me. It can't be the stress from the medical test their daughter is waiting to receive, it has to be that they're mean to me - imagination, assumptions.

Have you ever made a poor assumption about someone, and then your judgement changed when you got more information? Emerson Eggerichs tells this incredible story of a scenario he was in, where he was on a bus. This bus was full, and travelling by bus is not very good anyway, and so this bus was full. It was a long bus ride, and this single dad or - he didn't know if he was a single dad, he was just a dad by himself with three kids - they got on the bus, and these kids were awful. Hey, like awful! Like the spawn of Beelzebub, awful! They're running up and down, and making noises, and it was just horrible - which by the way, let me make an observation. If no one else will tell you this, I will tell you this, because I love you. No one thinks your children are as cute as you do right! Can I get an amen on that right? Nothing worse than a parent sitting there, letting their kids run roughshod over everything, acting like nothing's going on, and the kids are disturbing every single thing in the environment. No one thinks your kid is as cute as you do!

So you're on this bus, three kids running roughshod over everything, screaming, yelling, BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! And everybody's looking at the dad like: when is he going to do something; and dad's just sitting there, sort of glaring into nothing. The kids are throwing food, yelling out, going nuts, its 2am, people are trying to sleep. Everyone's looking at the dad. Now what assumption was the whole bus making about the dad? He's a horrible dad, he lets his kids run roughshod. So finally someone said to the dad: excuse me sir, can you get your children under control please? And the whole bus said: amen! The dad snapped out of it, and he said: oh, oh listen, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. Their mum just died and we just came from her funeral, and I'm a bit lost at the moment, and I'm sure they are too. I know they're being annoying, and I'm going to control them, so please forgive me.

Now how many of you, your judgement just changed, just like that? Right, more information - our judgement changes. Jesus is inviting us to a narrow road decision that says: I will choose to investigate the matter, instead of assuming the worst all the time; because when we assume the worst, we almost never keep it to ourself. Before we know it, the problem is roughshod over the entire environment.

Lets look at it another way. Jesus says to them: don't let assumptions and fragments sit. They become something not even close to the truth. Let's say it this way, there's a big difference between: what were they thinking! ...and what were they thinking? I'm actually curious to sit down and understand.

You know what, I know you're going to find this surprising. I spoke in 13 nations last year; two of the nations I required a translator. I did 480 one-hour preaches in 12 months last year. It was unbelievable. Now because I did 480 one-hour preaches, in 13 different cultures, there were occasions where people misunderstood me; and I know that's very surprising, because I'm so crystal clear in everything I say, and here's what I appreciated the most. In three different situations last year, pastors loved me enough to sit down with me, and say: Shane, we know your heart. We know you love God, but this is what some people thought you said. Can you help me understand what you meant by that?

So instead of making assumptions on fragments of information, they loved me enough to sit down over coffee, and have a conversation to fully investigate the matter. And when guys love me enough to do that, I feel comfortable enough with them to openly share what they were looking for. I didn't feel like I needed to protect myself. I didn't feel like any of that. Why? Because they were engaging in behaviour that Jesus is talking about. You do not perpetuate rumours, and fragments of information; you be mature enough to fully investigate the matter. Find out what they were thinking. Find out what they were thinking.

The key in Matthew 18 is this: if they listen. Now this is a Jewish euphemism, the idea is: to get it. It's not just to hear it; it's to get it. Jesus brings it back later at the end of the sermon. He says: if you hear these words of Mine, and you put them into practice, it's going to solidify your life. Jesus' invitation to us is this: If you will make a commitment to conceal the matter, as well as investigate the matter for the purpose of restoration and redemption, you will find that you will perpetuate far less darkness. Therefore darkness will far less be perpetuated on you, and you will find abundance and wholeness and shalom coming to every part of your life - but it's a narrow road thing.

Jesus says: the best possibility of them hearing you, is that you are talking to them. If your goal is to be heard, the best possibility of being heard, is actually that you're talking to the only people who can fix the problem - not to everybody else. The opposite of this is gossip. Gossip is when you fail to engage darkness with a commitment to fix it. You engage darkness with the purpose, intended or not, to perpetuate it. That's gossip, it's the obvious.

So this life Jesus talks about requires two things; 1) it requires someone willing to engage darkness; and 2) it requires someone being willing to be taught, to be teachable, to be disciplined, to allow correction to come on us. Now let me let you look at some scriptures around this because this is very important.

Proverbs 12:1, whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. Whoever hates correction is stupid. Let's look at another one. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. I love that scripture. The way of fools seems right to them - of course it does. People say: well you always think you're right! When have you actually done something you thought was wrong, before you did it? We all learn from experience. The way of someone always seems right to you, unless you're a psychopath, like of course it does. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

If you're smart, you ought to seek out someone who already has what you want, and then listen to every single thing they say. If you're wise. This is a narrow road thing. Most people won't do this. You'll listen to this, and then you'll go home, and won't think nothing else about it - and that's okay, because that's broad road stuff. Most people won't; some people will. The people who seek out people who have what they want, and then listen to everything they say - they tend to win at life. Foolish people think that what they're doing is right, but wise people listen to advice.

How about this one: Where there is strife, there is pride. In other words, if there's tension in your environment, someone is putting them self bigger than they should; ...but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

How about this one, Proverbs 15:10. Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path. The one who hates correction will die. Obviously a euphemism, not talking about physical death. It's obviously talking about entering into the realm of death, disrepair, darkness, decrease. Not everyone who hates correction, drops dead of a heart attack immediately. If you hate correction, you're on a path that's going to lead you down the road to destruction.

How about this one: those who disregard discipline, despise themselves; but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. It's an interesting take that Solomon has there. Those who disregard discipline - who do they despise? Do they despise the person giving the discipline? No. They despise themselves. Essentially Solomon's wisdom is: if someone's trying to speak correction and truth into your life, and you despise it, you think you despise them, but in actuality you despise yourself. In actuality you're just hating yourself.

It's interesting, those who disregard discipline despise... the root word in the original language for despise means to profane. To profane means to treat something that is sacred, as if it's common; like to profane the Bible - if you walked out there tonight, and someone had a Bible and set it on fire, how would you feel? You'd feel sick right? Why, is there something special about a leather-bound book with pages in the middle? No, it's because of what that book represents. That book is sacred, and you're treating it as common - and so when we do that that's called profanity.

Essentially what Solomon is saying is this: if you hate correction, and discipline the sacred part of you, you're treating it as if it's common; that God has something so much bigger for you, but what God has for you requires you to be open to feedback. It requires you to be open to other people's correction and ideas and truths. It requires you to be willing to listen to someone else's point of view about you; and if you despise that, you're only hating yourself. You're only treating yourself, who is a sacred person with a God idea around their life, you're only treating that, as if it's common. Oh, by the way, if you're mean, you could take what I'm saying here, and use that as a license to beat people up, because you're the guarder of truth or something.

This has to be out of relationship. If you can't tell me their children's names, you have no right to speak into their life. This has to be out of relationship. It's not meant for anybody to powering-up on someone else. Let's talk through some of these things. All of us have blind spots. A blind spot, by definition, means you cannot see it without someone else's help; so even if you went to a counsellor. the counsellor wouldn't be able to help you with it, because if you don't report it properly, the counsellor doesn't know what to do. It's a blind spot. There are things in all of our lives, that the only way we can get over them, is being open to the feedback that the people closest to us see. It's creating an environment, where you have friends that you could look at and say: come on, tell me what you see. Tell me what you see, come on, tell me what you see, I'm open to it.

Now you have to be very selective with this. Do not start a Facebook blog for this purpose; and you've got to be very careful who you tell your darkness to, depending on the darkness. For instance, if I were you, I wouldn't tell your wife that you have a lust problem. Don't make her carry that. She doesn't understand it. She'll be very hurt by it. I've been taking Krav Maga, which is I've been doing personal training to stay in shape, and I've been doing Israeli Special Forces up-close fighting training. It's called Krav Maga, and the week before I left Brisbane, they were teaching us how to defend knives. If you're going to admit to your wife you have a lust problem, I would suggest you take that course first. You don't want to do that - but you ought to have four guy friends that you could talk to about it. You ought to be open.

It's a fool is open to everybody, but I could tell you this. If you don't have four people in your life, who know all of your darkness, then darkness is overtaking you. If you don't have four people in your life, that know everything about you, and still like you, then darkness is overtaking you. If you're so guarded, that there's not four people you can name, who know everything there is to know about you, then darkness is overtaking you. I have four guys in my life at least, that are all old enough to be my dad, and all of them know everything about me.

The reason was, I was so guarded; because I'm a bit, you know - when you're up on stages all the time, you get all these personal questions, and then you get more and more and more guarded. You would not believe the questions people ask me about my personal life. You could not believe it; and so you get more and more and more guarded, and what I realised was that was slowly starting to destroy me. So I purposely, and with full intention, set out and I found guys, that are all old enough to be my dad, that I could be open and honest and tell my darkness to. I could confess the sins I wanted to commit, before I actually did them; and what I found was creating environments like that allows that sin to lose it's hold of my life, because I'm putting it into the light over and over and over and over again. It's a very powerful, powerful thing.

Sometimes you can't see the things that are closest. Golf's a great example of this. If you're a golfer you understand this - you cannot tell where your golf club is, without someone else looking at your golf swing - you can't. That's why every golfer in the world thinks he looks like Tiger, but his ball is going everywhere. It takes someone else giving feedback. That's why millions and millions and millions of dollars of new golf clubs are bought every year, because people are convinced it's not the golf swing, it's the golf club. I used to have PINGs, and then I started hitting them bad - and it couldn't have been my swing, because my swing was like Tiger - so I switched from PING golf clubs to Callaway golf clubs; and I hit them worse because Callaway golf clubs are less forgiving than PING golf clubs.

It was like I left a good woman for a crazy person who yelled at me, and just was an awful person; and then I went back and called the other one: please take me back; I went through my garage and I talked to my PING golf clubs. I said: please would you have me back? The PING golf clubs said: no, you've left me for another one, and I cannot have you back. So I've just mourned the loss of my PING golf clubs, and eventually I was very nice to them, and they took me back.

But when I saw my swing on video, I realised it wasn't the club at all. It was me! We all need these things in our life, all of us, but it has to come out of relationship. It is not your right to speak to someone else's life, when you don't have a relationship with them; and by the way, everybody hates it when someone does it to you! How do you feel when two guys in the same uniform, wake you up at 9am on Saturday morning, asking you to switch religions because they've got a new book written by Jesus? You don't even know me! Go away!

Don't laugh too hard - we were guilty of that too. I don't know how the church survived the '70s - I don't. It's the pure grace of God. Our entire evangelism model was this: [makes sound of knocking on a door] Hi, I'm Shane, and you don't know me, but I'm from the Bay City Outreach Centre, and I just want you to know that unfortunately you're an abomination under God. But the good news is, I have a magic prayer that we made up, and if you pray this prayer, you could be like me - instead of an abomination under God. That was our whole evangelism model - and people bought it! Why? Because God is relentlessly pursuing His creation, regardless of the flaws of His people.

But slowly, we've got to be careful that our message never becomes: be like us to be saved. It has to be: live like Him to have life. Those are two different things. The message of the church is always: live like Jesus to have life; and not: become like us to be saved. You have to have relationship. We have to have that.

Let's say it a couple of different ways. The person walking in God's light and love, can take correction, and actually learns to love it. A person walking in God's light and love can actually take correction - but actually it goes past that - they actually learn to love it. This way is difficult, and why few find it. It's a broad road versus narrow way issue. The flip-side of all this is gossip. The one thing that will destroy this environment in your life, and in your church, is if you can't keep a secret - if you tend to spread people's darkness after they've shared something.

Listen to this: They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful. They invent ways of doing evil. They disobey their parents. They have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree, that those who do such things deserve death - they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them. I want you to notice that gossip is in the same list as some pretty awful things, like hating God, and murder. Gossip and slander is right there! Why? Because gossip and slander destroy the necessary environment of openness and honesty, for people to become what God designed. They destroy it. It's like the environment necessary for you to realise the kingdom in your life, cannot exist in the presence of gossip.

Gossip makes us consumed with self-preservation. Once an environment is okay with people gossiping and slandering, then we have to be consumed with self-preservation, because people are attacking us. When we are so consumed with self-preservation, that we can't own and get help with our own faults, we can't become people who establish God's kingdom. When we're so concerned with protecting ourselves from being exposed, it ruins the truth that if you have a close group of people, that you're totally open and honest with, and you're open to correction, and they're committed to bringing light to your situation - it ruins it.

Gossip is verbal pornography. It gives you a quick easy hit, with no commitment to engage in the suffering and darkness, in order to bring light. When you engage in gossip, it is no different than you engaging in pornography. Pornography and gossip are the same psychological mechanism. They both give you a quick hit with no commitment. When you gossip, when you see someone engaging in behaviour that ruins their life, and instead of talking to the only person who can fix it, you spread it around the internet, or you spread it to the girls at the coffee shop, or you do whatever you do. When you turn your back on them, and spread it over here - you are engaging in the darkness in a way that can't possibly fix the problem. You're getting the quick hit that comes from engaging the darkness with no commitment to actually fix the problem.

The life Jesus assumes, is when you see darkness, you will come alongside someone with no judgement, no perpetuity - with full commitment to them to help them solve the suffering - and gossip ruins that. It ruins it! When we neglect correction we are on a slippery slope to destruction. You don't have to fall on purpose; you just have to live with no feedback and destruction will be a natural part of your life.

What if there was an environment we could create, where correction was a natural part of life, because everything was so open? Once again AA does this the best. What if we were constantly helping make each other better, without thinking we were better? What would happen if that happened, if we were constantly making each other better, without thinking we were better? How could we begin to create that?

There's one question I want to leave you with tonight: how can you start creating that environment in your own life? Maybe you're here, and no one knows your darkness. I'm telling you, darkness is overcoming you, if no one knows. You need to have three or four people who know everything about you, and are there to bring light to that situation. You need to start personally, then you could look at it corporately. There's so many things that we could do.

Now let me quickly tell you the difference between a sermon and a declaration. A declaration tells you what you already believe - and you should say amen. Jesus loves you... Amen! Right, that's a declaration. It's meant to be agreed with or disagreed with. A sermon is meant to be phrased in the form of a question. It's not meant to be agreed with, or disagreed with - it's meant to be thought about. So any time anybody says: I disagreed with that sermon; well it's not a very good sermon if you can disagree with it. A sermon is just meant to be thought about okay? A declaration is meant to be agreed with or disagreed with okay, so let me give you some thoughts to think about, and I want to challenge you to begin the process of living this way. It will be very important for your life.

Here is the manifesto of a kingdom person. 1) I will talk things out openly and honestly, with observations and not judgements. If you believe that this would be the best thing for your life say amen. [Amen.] This is going to take some work, I mean this is narrow road stuff - most people don't do this. 2) I will be brave enough, to talk it through with the person involved. 3) I will be open to correction myself. 4) I will operate in the disposition of messiah Jesus - the compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love God.

That's the disposition of messiah - that when I talk things out I will be humble and kind. That is the disposition of messiah. Let's keep going. 5) I will give the benefit of the doubt if they sin - there's always an 'if'. Understanding, get all the information first, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Don't assume your husband is evil in his heart, he might not have heard you. Chances are he didn't, especially if you asked him: does the dress make your butt look big. He doesn't know what to say. He'll just keep clicking, okay. Give him the benefit of the doubt. By the way, you like it when people give you the benefit of the doubt, correct? So if you like it when people give you the benefit of the doubt, does it stand to reason people will like it, if you give them the benefit of the doubt? So give people the benefit of the doubt.

6) I will keep it between me and them, without triangulation. It doesn't help to bring somebody in, if the problem can be solved between two people. Let's say it this way: I will have one conversation, instead of five. It's always easier to have one conversation, instead of five. The life Jesus is assuming assumes that with every problem, you can fix it with one conversation, if both people are open.

Lets ask some questions, not to agree or disagree - these are to be processed:

1) What is your initial response to correction? Is it defensiveness or openness? And likely it's never one or the other all the time - it depends on the topic. Some people are open to correction in some areas, and not so open in others; and so it likely depends, but the life Jesus assumes, is that we're open to feedback from good-hearted, genuine people, trying to bring light from darkness.

2) How open are you to the strength of feedback?

3) How many marriages in this room could benefit from a third party asking questions of it? The answer is most. The question is: could yours? And if your marriage could benefit from it, why aren't you doing something about it? You think it's just going to magically get better?

4) Have you considered bringing in another person's perspective to your business? Maybe there's a question you haven't thought of? You know who this happened to? Campbell's Soup. Campbell's Soups profits declined eight straight years, and they couldn't figure it out. They kept making the soup better. Finally they brought in an outsider, who wasn't intimately connected to Campbell's Soup, and they simply asked the question: why are you packaging it in a can? This generation uses microwaves, and cans don't go in microwaves. What if you packaged it in microwaveable-safe bowls, what would happen then? Good question!

5) Do you have a gossip problem? Do you tend to spread darkness, with no commitment to fix it? Listen, if you're not committed to fix the problem, then close your mouth. Do not make it worse. If you're not going to make it better, whatever you do, don't make it worse. Shut up! Can I get an amen? Flippin' heck. Hush your pie hole. Shut your cake hole; and either engage the problem with full commitment to bring light to it - or don't speak. You're making it worse, not better.

6) When is the last time you said something about someone else, without talking to them first? This is what Jesus is talking about - when you enter into behaviour like that, you're killing an environment that's necessary to make everybody their best. Jesus is assuming a much better place.

7) How did it work, when you did that? What were you trying to accomplish? Here, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, you had a reason I'm sure, for talking evilly about someone else, without speaking to them first. I'm sure you had good motives - what were you trying to accomplish? Did it work? If you're speaking with no motive - what is that? That's witchcraft.

8) Can you ask God for the guts to go talk to them - to speak the truth to the only person who can fix it? Are you willing to at least God for the guts to act this way? I know this is a broad road and a narrow way thing. I know most people can't. Are you willing to ask God to, by faith, give you the strength to do this?

9) Can you give them the benefit of the doubt? Can you do that?

10) are you willing to become brave enough to become this kind of person? Are you willing to be brave enough to become this kind of person?

Let me tell you something, I'm going to be open and honest with you. I'm going to share one of my darknesses. I'll model this a little bit. I have a very high IQ, and an almost-photographic memory. I'm horrible with names, but if you have a name-tag, I can take a photo in my brain of your face with your name tag - and then never forget your name. In some sense it's a gift from God, and in another sense it's a curse, because some things you want to forget, like seeing your granny naked. I can't get it out - see it's there right now - I saw it! I just - unbelievable, there she is. I graduated summa cum laude from university, and here was a problem I had: I thought I was smart, and I equated brains with wisdom. I had on three different occasions that come right to the forefront of my brain, on three different occasions, I stand before you today and I confess to you, that I was someone who despised discipline - and therefore hated myself.

On three different occasions, men in my life who were men of God, full of wisdom, who were all old enough to be my dad; on three different occasions they told me: Shane, we don't feel right about the path you're taking here. On all three occasions, because they couldn't explain to me why, I ignored their advice. I said: why do you feel this way? We can't tell you, it's just inside - we just know; and all of them were telling me the same thing, but because all of them couldn't tell me why, I stood back and said: well you guys don't know what's best for me - and I despised their correction, therefore I despised myself. I can tell you that in all three instances, in all three instances - it nearly destroyed me. It nearly destroyed me!

Look at my head! I was asked out a few months ago by a 58 year old woman. I'm 37! Just to be clear, my mother's 59! And to make this clearer, she was - to be fair to her - she was a good looking 58 year old woman, and she wasn't weird. She wasn't one of these people who "God told" was going to marry me or something. She actually thought I was in her age bracket; which led me to all kinds of questions like: how old do I look? Look at my hair! You know what this is from? Despising correction! Three different times - was I a bad person? No. Did I enter into some horrible sin? No. I just made bad decisions that almost destroyed my life. Why? Because I despised correction.

Was it because I was bad? No. I was 27, and there's no such thing as a smart 27-year-old. I chose to ignore the guidance of the people in my life, that God put there with wisdom and correction, and they were there for my blind spots. I couldn't see it. They were trying to help me see it, and I just ignored it - and look what it did. I'm being that open and honest with you to tell you this: I made a decision six years ago to never ignore their advice again. Even if I don't get it, I will blindly obey them - because they do not abuse their power. They're my dads. I'm encouraging you to be open to correction, and teaching, and discipline. Don't ever hate it - unless you want your head to look like this. Be open to teaching, correction and discipline; but also on the flip-side, when you see darkness, be willing to engage it; not in a way that just talks about it, but in a way that comes alongside of it, and commits to it, and says: we are going to make this right together. That's what the kingdom of God is about. You want to be a kingdom person, we have to establish these things in our heart. Let's pray together.

Lord, You're wonderful and we love You. We honour You, and we proclaim You're king. There's none like You. Lord, we submit our hearts to You again today. Why don't you pray a prayer, just right there underneath your breath, why don't you just pray this prayer if you mean it. Lord, give me the courage to see things differently, and the irresistible urge to respond to what I see. Lord, put people in my life that are these kinds of people. Let me be this kind of person. May we create this environment here at Bay City Outreach Centre, in Jesus' name, amen.

Grace and peace be to you, God bless.

[Mike Connell] Man, wonderful. Well if you just took away that one message and applied it your life would change. I've been around a long time, and seen exactly this principle at work. I can remember very early in my ministry one of the - our life would have gone completely off track, except it came to a point where I actually listened to the feedback, sought the feedback of a senior leader. It was completely contrary to what I thought. I just recognised, that if I honoured what he carried, and just submitted to it, then I'd be safe; and so I changed what I was doing, and it turned out we were safe. If I'd followed it through, we'd have ended up in another city, under a ministry that went off the rails and collapsed, and we'd have ended up away from God. It was just coming to a heart decision, and it wasn't about the person. There were so many holes in their life, I could easily have reacted to them. It was just recognising within the kingdom, when you align with God, when you align with Him and His authority over your life, you then automatically look to align yourself with people who can speak into you. It's just part of understanding the kingdom, yet it requires a decision to do it.

I can think of a number of decisions, choices we've made, where it was the counsel and advice of someone else that helped me not make a terrible mistake. I just encourage you, if you did nothing else this weekend, and I hope you'll come to the other meetings because, this is going to build from one thing to another; take that, get the tape of it, download it, buy it, whatever and go through it. There was so much he went fairly fast and so in the end it's hard to take it all in, but some of those points, just go right through them and say: wow, I want to put that in my life, I want to put that in my life, I need to put that in my life. Lord, who was talking to me, and I never listened? What a mess that turned out. Who came to me, and tried to tell me something and I wouldn't listen, and that really turned out a mess. Boy I paid a price for that. The dilemma is: so often we just walk on and on and on, making the same mistake. Don't make that mistake. Get this, this is a powerful message, and I want to thank you Shane for bringing that message today, just very, very powerful. It can help change every aspect of your life, if you'd apply it. Let's listen and apply it, amen. How many know God was talking to you tonight, had your number tonight? That's fantastic.



Live with Purpose (Men's Breakfast) (Shane Willard)  

Fri 15 Mar 2013 PM « Back to Top

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Ghenna was the town rubbish dump (a present reality), and Hades is an afterlife (a future reality), in English its Hell. When we think of Hell, we tend to think about: them (in the future); but in the vast majority of Jesus' teachings, Hell was: us (in the present). Heaven & Hell are both true, and both occupied, in the here/now. They are also both true of another place in the future, which is also occupied, by real people. Jesus' emphasis was far, far, far more on one, instead of the other. When you take care of the poor and the afflicted, that is what it means to know God.

Your intentions are just the starting point. Pure motives, and consistent obedience, mixed with focussed intentions, will lead you to a life that cannot be shaken. What are you rationalising today, that you'll regret tomorrow? One yes requires a thousand NO's. You can never beat sin by fighting sin. Instead you beat sin by empowering something else. The power that you give something else overcomes the sin. Have you ever lost your ability to enjoy what God's given you, because you've compared it to somebody else? Can you clearly define what you want?

Live with Purpose (Men's Breakfast)

If you want to know the things Jesus said would 'ruin your life', all you've got to do is do a simple study on Hell.

Because there's only one English word Hell, we tend to get confused that, when Jesus talked about hell, He was talking about two realities: one was called Gehenna, which is essentially hell now; and one was called Hades, which is essentially hell then (post-death).

Both are true, and ones not necessarily more important than the other, but Jesus' emphasis was far, far, far more on one, instead of the other. But when we tend to think about Hell, we tend to think about them/then; but the vast majority of Jesus' teachings on hell were us/now.

Heaven is true that way too. Heaven is true here, and it's occupied; heaven is true there, and it's occupied. Hell is true here, and it's occupied; hell is true there, and it's occupied.

The word for hell here was Gehenna, and essentially Gehenna was the town rubbish dump. It was a place where hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus, they used to burn children to the god Molech there, and so the land was essentially useless, so they used it as a town rubbish dump, because you couldn't use it for anything else.

The problem they found with that, when the wind shifted from that direction, the smell of that place went into the city, so they had to come up with a solution. Their solution was a sulphuric mixture of fire.

It's the same principle as a match; if you have a bowel motion, and it's particularly horrible, you can simply strike a match, let it light up for a second, and then you put the match out, let the smoke go through the room, and it will actually deodorise. If you didn't know that try it okay, I might have just saved your marriage.

So they kept this fire going all the time there. It was also a burial ground for poor people, so if you couldn't afford a tomb, they would throw your body on Gehenna. It was also where all the stray animals would scavenge for food and stuff. So in the First Century, if you went to Gehenna, you would smell sort of the fire and brimstone sort of mixture. You would also see poor people's families having funerals for them, and you would also hear the sounds of barking and biting and animals scavenging for food.

So Gehenna became known as the place where the fire doesn't die, and there's weeping and gnashing of teeth - and so that was hell HERE. Hell THERE was a place called Hades.

Jesus said the word hell 18 times; of the 18 times, 15 of the 18 was hell here; three of the 18 was hell there; so roughly 87.7 per cent of the time when Jesus talks about hell, He's not talking about a future reality. He's talking about a reality that's right here.

He said that six things will send your life to hell, six things, and these things are this: 1) Not controlling your lust issues. So He says: you don't get those things under control, it endangers your life (of the garbage dump). 2) Anger, holding anger in your heart. If you tend to not be able to let things go, and you hold bitterness in your heart because people have done you wrong - if you don't get that kind of thing under control, you run the risk of putting your life (on the garbage dump).

3) Calling people idiots. He says: if your pattern in life is calling someone a fool, you're endangering your life (of the garbage dump). Obviously that one's talking about hell here, otherwise we're serving a God who tortures people forever for calling someone an idiot, and we're all screwed okay, so you don't want to do that. Essentially He's saying: listen, you know, you don't want to make a pattern of doing that. So He says: your lust issues, your anger issues, and your tendency to think you're smarter than everybody else - those are the things you have to handle.

4) Fearing man instead of fearing God. He said: that'll hurt you. That will eventually endanger your life of the garbage dump. 5) Unforgiveness in your heart will eventually endanger your life of the garbage dump... 6) ...as well as greed.

So greed, unforgiveness, fear of man instead of fear of God, calling people fools, lust and anger; those six things are the things that destroy a man's life, to the point of putting you in the garbage dump.

When you think about it in those terms, what you think about is, you start looking at yourself; or if you're a narcissist, you start thinking about somebody else who needs to hear this.

So you go: well okay, I could see where this lust issue in my life has hurt me. I could see where my tendency to power over people has hurt me. So if I was going to talk to you about how to be an over-comer, what I would simply do is go through those six issues.

I want to even step back further from that, and give you a principle that actually is ubiquitous to the entire lot of it. If we don't master this, then we can't deal with anger, and fear, and lust, and calling people idiots. We can't deal with those things if we don't deal with this - and I think Jesus deals with it brilliantly in the end of the Sermon on the Mount. This is what it says, in Matthew 7:13.

Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leads to destruction, and many wander through it. But small is the gate, and narrow is the road, that leads to life, and only a few will find it.

Just to be clear, that has nothing to do with heaven and hell. That has everything to do with the fact that, in life, most people don't have what it takes to make a decision to make their life better. Most people just do what everybody else is doing, and find themselves completely unravelling.

When you see euphemisms in scripture like death, darkness, decrease, destruction, it's not necessarily talking about being literally dead, or literally dark. It has to do with a realm of life that is destroying you; light/life/increases, a realm of life that's leading you to life.

He says: watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you'll recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

In other words, if what they're doing is working, they're likely a good piece of tree. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut off and thrown in the fire. Thus, by their fruits, you will recognise them.

Not everyone who says to Me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who's in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day: Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out devils, and perform miracles? Then I will tell them plainly: I never knew you.

So this is very challenging to us, because to Jesus, calling Him Lord isn’t enough. If I ask someone: why are you saved; if their only answer is: I believe in Jesus; believing in Jesus, really, is that it? Honestly, believing in Jesus only qualifies you to be a demon with skin on. Demons believe in Jesus. What does that have to do with anything?

Wait a minute. Jesus says: people who've called Me Lord, and cast out devils, and prophesied, and performed miracles - it doesn't necessarily mean that they know me - and that is very scary, because then the question is: what does it mean to know God? I thought that's what it meant to know God. What does it mean to know God?

The only scripture in the whole Bible, that defines what it means to know God, is Jeremiah 22:16. It says: when you take care of the poor and the afflicted, that is what it means to know God.

In other words, when you do something for someone, who can't possibly do anything in return for you - that is when you get to know God, because that is exactly what God did for you. It's that sort of principle; and He keeps going. It says: it's all about how you treat others. This is where He keeps going:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and puts them into practice (hearing/doing), is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine, and does not put them into practice, is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The rain come down, the streams rose, the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at His teachings, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as the other teachers of the law.

Now let me read one more scripture to you. This is Deuteronomy 30:19, that has the same sort of principle that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. This would have been the Bible in Jesus' day, maybe this was His key text, before He preached this.

It says: I call heaven and earth as a witness against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, that you and your children may live; and that you may love the Lord your God and listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him; for the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This thing that you keep seeing through scripture is, you have two choices: life, death; blessings, curses; darkness, light. Choose life, that you might live. Choose to be in the light, as He is in the light. Jesus is simply using the same principle, with a different example.

He says: there are many times in life where you're going to come to a fork in the road. If you ever in life are faced with a decision, where most people are going one way - chances are, you should be going the other. Some of this is just common-sense.

What percentage of people do their finances actually work? Very few! Statistically most of you are broke; and I don't know you, but statistically most of you are broke.

According to US News and World Report, 63 per cent of every single person over 60 does not have $1,000 in the bank. How is that even possible? That is totally trying to live on accident, with no plan at all, and waking up one day at 68 and going: oh no! The truth is that most people live like that, according to US News and Word Report. I find that statistic hard to believe, but they printed it, so may as well use it.

What percentage of people are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque? Most. What percentage of guys in this room - and don't answer me, I'm being rhetorical here - how many of you actually have financial peace - where you sit in your chair at night, and you're not wondering how you're going to pay your bills? My guess is: not very many. My guess is: most people don't experience that at all.

What percentage of marriages actually work? Somewhere around one in five! If you have a great marriage, hold onto it, because it's really, really rare - about one in five, one in five. Fifty per cent of marriages divorce, another 25 per cent of people are just holding. One in five are like: she's my best friend, he's my best friend, we're going through - this is awesome! Very few!

Jesus is saying something that's very obvious. He says: when you look at life, and you look at people winning, and you look at people losing, most people are losing; but the reason most people are losing, is because they don't have what it takes, to make the choice to stay on the high road. They don't have what it takes to stay over here.

So one principle about this that is very, very important - there are three images Jesus gives, and they all have a different message to speak to us.

The first image He gives is gates. He says: broad is the road, and narrow is the way, that leads to life. So there's a broad gate, and a narrow gate.

Now in Jewish literature, this is a metaphor for the city. This is a metaphor for the city. What they did in all of Jewish literature is, they used Jerusalem as the example of attaining your goal. So instead of saying: hey, have you met that goal; they might say: hey, have you made it into the city with that? It was a euphemism, it was a metaphor for doing that; and the problem with that is, is that as you got closer to the city, the road got narrower; so you had to, with full intention, try to make your way into the city.

You couldn't just accidentally make it to the city. You had to with full intention. That's why, even in the Bible, when it talks about Jesus going to Jerusalem, it always adds adjectives that don't seem necessary, like: and Jesus resolutely set out to Jerusalem. Why would you add that? Why not say: well, Jesus intended to go to Jerusalem? No, no, no. He resolutely set out to go to Jerusalem. Why?

Their idea, in all of their literature, was that if you're going to make it to where you want to go, you can't try to get there accidentally. You have to live with full intention!

In other words, if you don't know the road that you're on, and where it's taking you, it more than likely is leading you to destruction. If you're trying to live accidentally, it just doesn't work.

I'm not going to do this to you, but if I did, you should be prepared. If I just pointed you out, and said: quickly sir, tell me where you want to be, financially, in six months? If you can't do that, then you're losing financially.

People who are winning financially, understand that they have to have a goal, and a plan, and a strategy; and the only thing that gives them the power to say no to frivolous spending, is that they're saying yes to financial abundance.

If you can't tell me your goal in six months, for where you want to be financially, I can tell you you're losing; and so what I'd do is: go home today, and sit down at a table, and take 30 minutes, and write out a six-month goal. Write out a year goal. Write out a plan to make that goal.

I just hired a director of charity for my ministry, because the product sales were going so good, that we were giving so much to these orphanages, that my lawyer said: it's actually irresponsible for you not to have someone looking after this. So I went to the Board of Directors, they agreed, so we ended up hiring this girl.

Now the problem was, we knew who we wanted to hire from the get-go. The problem was when she was 19 years old, she made some really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad financial decisions, and so she was sitting there with a mound of debt.

So what happened to her, is when she was 24 years old, she'd had enough, and she said: I will end this now! She made a plan, and her plan was that by December of 2012 that she would be completely debt-free; and the power of that goal, the power of keeping that vision in front of her, the power of every day waking up saying: today I'm going to be more debt-free than I was yesterday, tomorrow I'll be more debt free than I am today.

Every single day was an effort to get the debt taken care of. You know what happened? The power of yes, gave her the power to say no to frivolous spending, to doing things that didn't meet that goal; and what happened was, by October 2012, she was completely debt free!

By December 2012, she had $6,000 in the bank, and now she's fully prepared to be a missionary in the world, without the financial pressure of paying debts off, to pay for drinks she bought six years ago on a credit card.

Now she's standing tall, and she's got a fully-funded emergency fund in case something happens; and that is the power of strategy, and intention, and fully intending to make a goal, and go for something.

Jesus, in one sense, is teaching us that - that most people fail, not because they're bad. Most people fail because they fail to plan, the fail to make a strategy, they fail to make a goal. They don't live with intention.

They wouldn't even know, if they got what they wanted, if they had it - because they're not even sure about what they want. Most people live willy-nilly, sort of like a fire. If a fire is broad, it can sort of burn down a lot of bush; but if you harness the same fire into an acetylene torch, it can cut through steel. That is the power of desire, and intention, and living with full goals, and full intention; instead of trying to live accidentally.

That's gates. Gates is a challenge to keep in mind our role in the world: to be light and darkness, and choose the higher road; but the only thing that gives you the power to choose the higher road, is to live with full intention to do it.

Nobody wakes up in the morning, and accidentally chooses the higher road. Nobody wakes up in the morning, and just accidentally forgives. No one wakes up in the morning, and just accidentally chooses to feed the poor. No one wakes up in the morning, and chooses to live for the betterment of others. No one does that.

That requires full-fledged intention. There are a lot of good people who are living selfishly, a lot of good people. Let me prove it too you. In the last 30 days, whose life is fundamentally better, because you're in it?

How many orphans have you fed in the last 30 days? How many blind kids in the Third World, are not blind now, because you went to Fred Hollows Foundation.com, and gave them $30 to take the cataracts off their eyes? What's the last thing you spent $30 on? Was it more important than a four year old girl seeing? How many of you would believe, with all your heart, that we should be engaging in things like that? Right - oh everybody? Wow, good! How many of you have actually done it? Oh good, half, good. So what's wrong with the other half of you? Are you bad? No, you're not bad.

It's just what happens is, that if we don't live with the full intention of doing something, the urgent things right in front of us take precedent, and we lose sight of bigger-picture things. It's not that you're bad.

You want to beat fear in your life; you got to make some intentions. You want to beat guilt in your life; you've got to make some intentions. You want to beat anger in your life; you've got to live with full intention to do it. You want to beat that tendency to call people idiots in your life? You've got to make full intention to do it. You want to quit fearing man, instead of fearing God, you've got to make full intention to do it. You want to beat that unforgiveness thing in you, you've got to make full intention to do it. None of these things handle themselves accidentally. It's a broad road, and a narrow way. It's a broad road and a narrow way, so the first image is gate.

The second image is fruit, which is a challenge to us, to be honest about the way we're living, and is it working? I love the Bob Newhart counselling thing on YouTube, where the person says their problem, and he says: is it working? No. Stop it! It amazes me the number of people who keep doing the same exact thing, and it hasn't worked yesterday, and it's not working today, and it for sure won't work tomorrow, but they just keep doing it.

Essentially Jesus is saying: it ain't working? Dump it! Change something! Change a plan. Shake things up. Do something with your life! Do something - at least be honest enough to say: is the way I'm thinking, actually producing what I want it to produce. At least be honest enough to do that.

I've always been taught that a marriage works this way: Okay, but is it working? If it's not working, you might want to change something. Is it just possible, that what you were taught your whole life, is wrong? Is that even possible? That maybe grand-pappy was wrong? Maybe your mother, as good hearted as she was, she was wrong. Jesus says: sometimes you've got to just step back, and be honest enough to evaluate these things.

So the first image is gates, which has to do with our intentions. The second imagery is fruit, which has to do with an honest introspection to see things for what they are.

As a counsellor, you do this all the time - that before you can help anybody, you have to step back and go: okay, listen, I need you to own the fact, that what you've been doing, is not working. You see Jillian Michaels do this all the time.

You ever watched The Biggest Loser? Does that come on over here, The Biggest Loser? It's a show dedicated to people losing weight, and she's just beaten the dog-stew out of somebody, and they're crying, and they're like: this isn't working; and she's like: this isn't working! Look at you! What YOU'VE been doing isn't working; and then she's just nailing them, and then they cry more. Then they get their second wind, and at the end of the show they hug. It's that.

The third image He gives us is foundations; so the first image is gates, second image is fruit, third image is foundation. The foundation was a challenge to us, to stay sensitive to God's voice, and be willing to submit.

Essentially what Jesus is saying is this: if you can hear God saying something, and you have the ability to walk away and do nothing about it, you're in real strife.

If you ever get to the point in your life, where you know, you just know, this is what God is saying; but you have the ability, even knowing this is what God's saying, to walk away and do absolutely nothing about it, then your life is getting shakier, and shakier, and shakier.

Essentially what He's saying, without any myth or illusion of being perfect, that the person who stays sensitive to the voice of God - and is willing to not just hear it, but to do it as well - those people's life get more and more solid.

I could sit here and talk about specifics all day long, but if you don't deal with that tendency in all of us, to be able to hear the word of God, and then walk away and still live the same, nothing I say will ever work.

Essentially He says your choice in life is this: do you want your life to be solidified on a rock; or do you want it to be shaky on sand. And by the way, in this sermon, it has nothing to do with what you believe.

People say: well my life's on the rock. How do you know that? Because I believe in Jesus. Really? Once again, believing in Jesus only qualifies you to be a demon with flesh on. Are you kidding me, you believe in Jesus? Oooh.

When Jesus talks about your life being on the rock, instead of the sand, it has nothing to do with what you believe, and everything to do with how you behave.

It has everything to do with your ability to keep adjusting, keep responding. I hear God saying this, and I'm going to respond.

He doesn't even end the sermon with an altar call. He's got thousands of people in front of Him, and He doesn't say: now who wants to go to heaven? Who'd like to pray a prayer, to ensure that you have a ticket punched to go to heaven when you die? He doesn't do that. He's got thousands of people in front of Him, He doesn't do that. That's very telling.

His invitation, at the end of the biggest sermon He ever preached on recorded record was: I'm asking you to do an internal stock take. When you hear the word of God, are you willing to respond with action; or are you just going to keep living how you've always lived? Because if you respond with action, it will solidify your life. If you do not, it will make your life very shaky.

So He has gates, which has to do with intentions; fruit, which has to do with being honest enough to ask ourselves: is the way we're living working; and three, foundations. If it's not working, and you hear a better way to live, are you willing to be courageous enough to change it?

I did not choose where I was born, and I could still be choosing to live that way, to this day. It would have been not that hard of a choice to choose that; but I realised that that was not me - I was challenged by God's word.

I know this is going to sound funny, but the day I realised Jesus wasn't white, was unbelievable to me. I thought to myself: flip! He's not white! I mean, we all pray to the Jesus we picture, so for me it was: dear blonde haired, blue eyed, cleanly shaven or lightly bearded Jesus, who smells of sweet lavender and dove soap. Like, it was that.

When I realised Jesus wasn't white, it was like: flip! I had a choice. I could either keep going my way, or I could make a choice to do something else. I was 14 years old when I realised, that God had called me to love all people, and to treat all people with the dignity afforded to them, because they're all made in the image of God; and all, every living soul, belongs to God.

I remember having to make that choice, but if I had the ability to hear that, and then walk away and still live a different way, it makes your life shaky. You think about it.

We could go around the room, if I said: what's your story? What's your story of when God rocked your world, and you were given a moment, a critical moment, to make a decision to change things? When is that story? Every one of you, who were winning in life in any direction, you have a story that you could tell. You have a story. You have something. You say: oh look, I was this, and now I was this.

I remember the day, I remember where I was sitting, the day I decided that I would live debt-free my whole life. It didn't matter if I drove a piece-of-crap car, I will live - I choose to drive a cheap car over having debt in car payments. I just choose to do it. I remember where I was sitting that day.

I remember all my friends making fun of me, because my car was so horrific, like the floorboard actually had holes in it. I had to put a two by four between the console and the door, to make sure that my feet didn't go through the bottom of the thing. The ceiling felt was coming down, and all my friends, they're like: Shane, what's wrong with you? Everybody has a car payment; and I'm like yeah: but if everybody has a car payment, and by statistics, everybody is broke, maybe this is the better way to do things.

While they were paying $400 a month, with interest, on something going down in value, I was paying the same $400 a month to a savings account that I'd created, called Shane's Car Fund. Within a year I had $4,800, and then I went and bought a $4,800 car, which was by far much better.

After that, I still put the same $400 in the same account. Two years later I traded in the $4,800 car; took the $9,600 I'd saved up, and bought a much nicer car. So five years later, their six year old Ford Focus was now paid off, and I was driving a much nicer car, because I had a plan.

Now I have a paid for Cadillac Escalade, and people look at me and go: you're so lucky! Lucky? No! I made a strategy, and a plan, and lived with full intention. I chose to live without debt. I can tell you, I never regretted it, never - but it took guts.

It takes guts, when you know God's challenging you to do something, and then you have the ability to walk away and not do anything. That's easy, and it will shake your life up; but when you have the guts to do something about it, it makes your life more and more solid.

What three key decisions have you made, in the last five years, that have changed your life; and it's because of a challenge God gave you. How many of you regret ever doing it? We never do. We never regret when we respond positively to God's voice, never ever ever.

Let's say it this way. Your intentions are just the starting point. Pure motives, and consistent obedience, mixed with focussed intentions, will lead your life to a life that cannot be shaken.

It's not just the attention of your heart that is the starting point. It's also making sure that your behaviour matches up with your intentions.

If you intend to be financially secure, yet you go to the mall every other day, and buy things you don't need, with money you don't have, to impress people you don't like - that is not a good plan. It's not a good plan!

If you're goal is to have a happy marriage, it's probably a good thing to, with focussed intention and strategy, sit down and talk to your wife, on a daily basis. It's probably good - probably.

If your goal is to be this; you have to say NO to that. Let's say it a couple of different ways: one, you cannot live on accident. At best, you'll be disappointed with life; at worst, your life will be destroyed.

When I was a counsellor, any time someone came to me and said: I'm just so discouraged with my life; and I go: oh, why? I just don't know. I don't know why. Can you help me explore the reasons why I'm so disappointed with life? One hundred per cent of the time, it's because they were trying to let life come to them on accident.

They wouldn't have known if they got what they wanted, if it was standing in front of them, because they had not clearly defined it. You have to clearly define your life. You cannot live on accident. Where do you want to be in six months? Where do you want to be financially, relationally, vocationally? I want to start a business. Great! Great, then let's go do that. Let's make a plan. What equipment do we need? What's our market? How are we going to market ourselves? What are we going to do?

Let's live with full intention. This is a whole lot better than watching the next episode of NCIS. This is great. We're living with purpose, and intention, and power. We can do it! You cannot live accidentally. At best, you'll be disappointed; at worst, you'll be destroyed.

Two, people do not fall suddenly. They were on the road for a long time, and didn't realise it. What seems like a sudden fall, is only a sudden fall because it's you. Anybody observing your life could tell, that the road you were on was taking you over the cliff the whole time.

It's never the intention of your heart that leads you where you want to go; it's the road that you're on. If you get on the highway, wherever the highway is around here, if you get on the highway going north, with full intention of getting to Wellington, you're never going to make it. Even though every intention of your heart is I - where are you going? I'm going to Wellington. By faith, I speak that out; oh yes, by faith we call it into being. Oh yes! We're going to Wellington.

Yeah, but the road you're on is taking you to Auckland. Yeah, but we're going to Wellington; by God, yes we are, yes we are! So you get to Auckland; it feels like suddenly Auckland has appeared. No! Auckland was at the end of the road all along, you just didn't realise it.

Your intentions aren't enough to lead you where you want to go - which leads me to this question: What are you rationalising today, that you'll regret tomorrow?

When you're travelling, if your goal is to make it through today - if that's your whole goal in life - I want to make it through one day, do whatever you want to do. If every day starts over new, just do whatever you want to do, who cares?

But if you have any wisdom at all, you're thinking down the track; and when you're thinking down the track, however far out you're thinking, is how important your decisions are here.

One degree - I played golf at Cape Kidnappers yesterday. It was awesome by the way, pretty awesome. Had a guy here from Brisbane who treated me to it. He said: I just want to bless you, you blessed me. I want to take you up to Cape Kidnappers, it's my treat. I was like: this so fantastic!

So if you're aiming 250 metres down a fairway right, how important is one-degree off-centre here? It's pretty big. One degree, that's not very much, one degree. It would take a high-speed, frame-by-frame camera to see the error, one degree off centre here, is 20 metres off-centre at the target. At Cape Kidnappers, it's the difference between the centre of the fairway, and off the cliff. One degree! Now a 20-foot putt is different. On a 20 foot putt, one degree - one degree here is four inches, which still misses the hole, but it's a tap-in later.

So the shorter out your goal is, the less important it is your decisions here; but if your goal is long-range, then little things here make huge differences there.

If there's a builder in the room, maybe you could tell me the answer to this: if you're 1/32 of an inch off square at the bottom, how important is that? Well, if it's a one-storey house, not very important; but what if you're building a 60-storey building, and you're 1/32 of an inch off-square at the bottom. By the time you get to the top, it's just leaning. See, little things here, make big differences there.

What are you rationalising today, that you'll regret tomorrow? I know in a room this size, full of men, I need to say this: stop calling her! You're rationalising it today, but tomorrow it's a disaster! But Shane, it's just a phone call - today. Tomorrow it'll be coffee, the next day it'll be lunch, the next day it'll be supper, and the next day my husband's out of town, come over. Stop calling her! If you're sitting in your seat right now, hoping that I'm not fixing to go prophetic on you - it's you! If your heart's beating right now, fast - it's you! What are you rationalising today, that you'll regret tomorrow?

Three, you do not have to fall on purpose, you just have to live without one, and destruction is imminent.

I could tell you that statistically, most of you would report in an anonymous survey, that you're dissatisfied with your life; and the issue normally isn't that you're bad, or evil, or in sin, or anything like that. For most people, it's simply: I haven't clearly defined what I intend to do, and so no matter what you're doing, it's not satisfying, because it's not meeting what you're intending. You don't have to fall on purpose, you just simply have to live without one, and destruction is just going to be a part of your life.

How about let's say it this way: When we do not have intention towards life, destruction is just an inevitable part of our experience. When we don't live with full intention, full focus; what do I intend to do with my life today? Tomorrow? In six months? In a year? Where am I intending to go?

If you don't live your life that way, I'm telling you, five years goes by, and those five years just pass by, and you're still in the exact same spot going: what's wrong with my life? It's a challenge to us.

Let's say it this way. One YES, always requires 1,000 NO's. One YES, requires 1,000 NOs.

The only being that gives you the power to say no to destructive things, is that you're saying yes. You can never beat sin, by fighting sin, ever. You only empower what you resist. You can never beat sin by fighting sin; you beat sin by empowering something else; and the power you give something else, actually overcomes the sin.

Let's say it this way: one yes requires 1,000 no's; so here's some examples: To be a yes-person on forgiveness, means no to grudges. You don't beat grudges by fighting grudges, you beat grudges by fully intending to live as a person of forgiveness. When you fully intend to live as a person of forgiveness, the grudge loses its hold. You can't possibly say yes to this, and yes to that. The power of yes is so much better than the power of no, so much easier than fighting it.

How about this: to be a yes-person on edification, means no to gossip. To be a yes-person on giving, means no to hoarding. To be a yes-person on humility, means no to powering-up. To be a yes-person on rest, means no to urgency. To be a yes-person on our profession, means no to laziness.

If you say: I fully intend to start a grass-cutting lawn-care business, great! What's your plan? Well I'm going to buy the equipment, I'm going to do this, I'm going to that, I'm going to market, I'm going to do this. If you intend to start a grass-cutting business, then that means saying no to sleeping in. If you're starting a grass-cutting business, and I call you at 9.30 and wake you up, you are not going to win. There's only so much daylight, and you've got to cut so many yards to break even. To say yes to this, means no to that.

Let's say it this way: to say yes to being a person of purity, means no to temporary pleasure; but the way to fight temporary pleasure is not to fight it. The way to fight temporary pleasure is to say yes to purity, with all your focussed intention. One yes, requires 1,000 no's.

To say yes to financial abundance, means no to frivolous spending, and $6 coffee. There's no way you can win financially, paying $6 for something that costs 30 cents - there's just no way. These guys are masters. They've figured out how to market a drink, that costs 30 cents to make, including the labour - and they sell it to you for $6. This is genius! This liquid is so amazing, if you drink it, it will give you a slightly more alert feeling, for roughly 12 minutes; and then 15 minutes later, it will turn into urine. I just drank something, and it's coming out the other end - this is so cool!

Let me just give you some math okay. It doesn't affect my life, but I can tell you this: if you were 25 years old, and you plan to retire at 67 - if you drank one $6 coffee a day, that sounds like $180 a month. The average stock market rate of return from 1919 until now, including ups and downs is 11.7 per cent. If you invest $6 a day, at 11.7 per cent, from 25 to 67, you're worth $1.1 million. I hope you liked the coffee! .

If your goal in life is to drink good coffee - then do it. You've gotten what you want, but you can't drink $6 coffee, and then go: I have no money. Well of course you have no money. I had these young people in Australia go: we have no money; and I said: how many coffees do you drink a day? Two. That's $12 a day, times 30 days a month. You're spending $360 a month in urine, and you wonder why you have no money?

Is it Satan? Is he attacking your finances? Well look, if your goal is to drink good coffee, have at it; but if your goal is to live with financial abundance, then you have to make a decision to build a distaste for $6 coffee, and drink coffee at home! Hello!

You can't say: I want this; and then act in a way that does that. Jesus says: that's very shaky. If you know what you want, and then you don't behave that way, that's very shaky, and it's going to feel like you fell suddenly - but you did not fall suddenly. You've been on that road the whole time. That road was leading off the cliff the whole time.

How about let's say it this way: to be a yes person on our dream, means no to spending time on things other than our dream - even if those things are good.

People who win are focussed, and intense, and they're living on purpose - fully intending to meet their dream and their goal. To be a yes-person on purpose, means no to anything that moves us away from it. It's not that what you're saying no to is bad; it's just it's not leading you where you want to go. But people who have no clear definition of where they want to go, they have no power to say no, because who knows?

Why would I say no to that, I have no goal, I have no dream, I have no vision. The Bible says it this way: where there's no vision, people perish. Was that literal, like if you don't have a dream for your life, you're going to die? No. It's a euphemism. It leads you to disrepair. Actually, in the original language, it says this: where there's no vision, people cast off restraint. In other words, the only thing that gives you the power to say no to something is that you're saying yes to something else at a greater level - which leads me to this question.

What are you saying yes to? You want to be an overcomer? Here's my first question: What are you living with full intention to accomplish? What are you giving your life to?

I only slept in my own bed 38 days last year. What gives me the power to do that? What gives me the power to do that is I have a dream, and I have a vision, and I have a mission, that I want to spread the gospel throughout the nations; and even more so than that, I want to feed the poor.

I want to restore dignity to those who don't have it, and for me to do that requires me to speak a lot. It requires me to do that. The Lord put it on my heart, He challenged me. He said: I want you to work one month a year for the poor; so from June 15 to July 15 this year, everything I'm going to do is for them.

So it's a dream in my heart, it's a vision. It's a passion, it's an energy, that drives me here, so that I could say no there. I have to. I have to.

Let's say it this way: some patterns of life are obviously destructive, leading to darkness and disrepair and death. Things like: hoarding riches and chasing after it; things like comparison; these things are obviously destructive, yet - and we know that right? Is that even controversial, that chasing after riches will destroy your life? It sounds pretty much like Jesus, correct? So then if we know that, why do we spend millions of dollars doing it?

There's a website called uglypeople.com. It's a website that is dedicated to random - some of it is people doing it themselves - but it's dedicated to random photographs, of picking on people who are ugly. Now as soon as I say that, how many of you, you're sort of like: that's nauseating right? That's as bad as that drink right? If we all believe that, then how is it that the owners of uglypeople.com are multi-millionaires?

We know it's destructive, yet we engage in it. We know chasing after riches is destructive, yet the top reality TV show on Network Cable is: Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Listen to the title, Keeping Up with them - that's our goal in life. Really? Have you ever seen the show? Anybody want Bruce Jenner's life? Are you kidding me - and a house surrounded by high maintenance women, oh my God! Who would want that? No. No.

See when we engage in things like this, it's just evidence. It's not that you're bad; it's just that you're not yes to something more important. The way to do it is not to beat that. It's to say yes to this.

Jesus has said that there are times in life where everyone's going left, and you just know you need to go right. That's what it takes to be a kingdom person.

Everybody holds grudges, true; but everybody is leading their life to disrepair. That's a broad road. If everybody holds grudges, chances are, a kingdom person is choosing to forgive. Everybody has a car payment. Everybody's making payments on something going down in value. Everybody's doing that. Is that true? Yeah, pretty much true, but if everybody's going right, it's probably pretty good evidence that we should go left, left.

Everybody does business dodgy. Everybody cheats on their taxes. Is that true? Pretty much, but if everybody's going right, chances are a kingdom person is going left, yeah. Everybody does this, everybody, everybody, everybody - I know, yeah, you're right.

I had a teenager one time tell me: everybody sleeps around. Is that true? Statistically yes, 87 per cent of teenagers are sleeping together, sleeping around. 87%, 9/10 - is that true? Yeah, sure - but if everybody's going right, chances are that the kingdom and the best life is found by going left. Are you going to be a crowd-follower, or are you going to be a Jesus person? That's a massive decision we have to make.

Now this has huge implications alright. One, when we live intentionally pursuing the narrow gate, we are more grounded, and less anxious. There's something about living with a clear intended purpose and dream that keeps you from worrying about other things.

My friend Kyla Alexander, she's a 39 year old lady, who's my hero. She's given up her dream to be married and have children, because God has called her to restore dignity to mentally-handicapped orphans in China, and she's given her life to that instead.

Kyla doesn't sit around worrying about: oh, where's the next man going to come from? No, she's given her life to 140 children; and the power of yes has helped her beat this.

When we live intentionally, it takes away anxiety. The cure for anxiety is not prayer, although it might help. I'm not against prayer. The cure for anxiety, long-term, is living with intention toward something else; and when you put all your energy into something that is focussed and intentioned, that when you live for your dream, it actually takes care of the anxiety on its own.

It's the same with anger. People with an anger problem, they don't have an anger problem, they have an energy problem. People with an anger problem, they have too much spare energy. They're not giving their life to something beyond themselves, so they're all just stoked up with all this energy, and have to do something with it. People who are living with full intention and purpose, they don't have anger problems.

Can you imagine if I had Kyla here today, and you started telling her the things that stress you? She works with mentally handicapped children, hoping to have enough money to feed them, every single month; and what's stressing you? You were born in New Zealand? I know. Your road system still sucks? I know. I know. I've been coming here seven years, they're still fixing the same road. I don't understand. Kingdoms have risen and fallen; you guys are still fixing one road. I know! You drive to a store, that pre-packages food for you, and you have a hard time finding a park? I know. That is so stressful. You get your trolley full of food, that was pre-packaged for you, and you wouldn't believe how slow the cashier in the store is. I know.

Kyla would be like: what? You have roads? You have a car? So you get into a motorised vehicle, that takes you to a store, that pre-packages food for you, and you live in one of the top five greatest nations in the world, and you're stressed? What is wrong with you! Is it that you're bad? No. It's just that we don't live with full intention. Full intention cures that.

Number two, because we're intentionally pursuing our purpose, we're not concerned about, or in prison to: worry, discontentment, and most importantly comparison.

When you're living on full purpose for what God's called you to do, you will not be concerned with what other people have. It doesn't matter what they have, because you're pursuing what God has YOU to do.

Comparison's a killer man, it's a killer! We get so wrapped up in 'er', how can I be rich-er, smart-er, thinn-er, pretty-er, talented-er, more important-er. We spend money, and energy, and time, and resources, doing nothing but trying to be better than the other person.

We fail to see the flip-side of that: that if I'm smarter, that means I think someone else is dumber. If I'm prettier, that means I think someone else is uglier; and at the end of the day, all that does is make me feel superior, which doesn't work. Listen, comparison never works. If you're better, it doesn't help you. If you're not better, it doesn't help you. Either way, it's a horrible exercise to go through. Have you ever been stuck in the land of 'er'?

Let me say it this way: have you ever lost your ability to enjoy what God's given you, because you've compared it to somebody else?

Have you ever lost the joy of your own children, because they're not achieving as much as the other person? Have you ever been convinced that your six year old is the smartest six year old in the world, only to go a first grade function, and realise that wasn't true?

Have you ever been convinced that your six year old's the smartest six year old in the world, then you go to their six year old party, and there's some Asian kid there doing the Pythagorean theorem? Then you look around for your kid, and your kids got a bucket on his head, beating it against a wall? Someone says: whose kid is that? I don't know, and before you know it you're disowning your own kid, because he's not as high achieving as this.

Do you realise that for a lot of couples in the world, your kid is their miracle? They would do anything to have a child, and they can't; and so what you're now discontented with, because he's not as high achieving as the Asian kid doing the Pythagorean Theorem; what you're discontented with is, someone else's goal in life.

Have you ever lost sight - have you ever done this to your wife (sideways glance)? Have you ever become discontented with her, because someone else was prettier?

Do you realise that there are some people, who your wife would be like the best thing that's ever happened to them; and you're losing sight that your wife is the best thing that ever happened to you, because you're comparing her to somebody else? You go get the other person, and you realise that she's pretty on the outside, but behind a closed door, she is horrible, and cantankerous, and just a terrible person. Then you're just calling the other one, it's a comparison. If you're called to be married to the woman you're with, it doesn't matter what someone else has. Have you lost the ability to enjoy what God gave you, because you're comparing them to something else?

How about your car? Have you ever been perfectly content with your car, until you get into someone else's car, and their car is so much nicer than your car; then you get back in your car, and you're like: this stinks? Do you realise that if you own a car, you're in the richest eight per cent of the whole world? That means 92% of people in the world would love to have what you have.

What about your house: have you ever been perfectly content with your nine-foot ceilings, until you visit the home of someone who has a 12-foot ceiling? You're like: wow, this is amazing! Then you back to your house, and you're like ducking, because you're all cramped.

When you're living on purpose, it doesn't matter what other people have, because you're pursuing what God has for you. There's nothing more imprisoning that comparison. I'm telling you, if you don't beat this, you'll never be an over-comer. If you don't beat your tendency to judge yourself by looking left and right; if you don't get your worth from pursuing what God has for you; if you don't beat that sense to get stuck in 'er' - the problem with 'er' is that there's always an 'est'.

If you make a million dollars this year, are you richer? Yup. Are you richest? Nope. You know that there's a guy in the world worth $68 billion - and he still goes to work every day trying to make $69 billion. It's amazing. Do you know the difference between $68 billion, and $69 billion is? It's more money than all of us will ever see in our whole life, and this guy's trying to make one more - it's 'er'. It's in prison. It's not living at all. It's not living at all.

How about this: no one forgives; gives and feeds the poor; or serves others; on accident. You have to live with full intention, so let me close this out with questions, because I want you to take what I'm saying, and I want you to be able think through it in your small groups, and apply this; because if you hear it and don't do it, it just makes your life sandy.

How about this: if you live accidentally, it will lead to destruction; so here's my questions for you. What do you desire? Can you clearly define what you want? Can you clearly define what you want; and if you can't, I would urge you, over the next seven days, to spend some time alone in a room with the Holy Spirit, and ask God: God can you reveal to me what I even want out of life? Do you know what you want?

Let me say it another way, I'll ask it this way. How would you know, if you got what you were looking for? If you got what you were looking, for how would you know? What does that look like?

Let's say it this way: starting on a daily level, what are you willing to purpose in your heart to do today? What's your plan today, what's your goal? Are you going to go home and watch TV or something - what's your goal? Is your goal today, to get the yard taken care of? Is your goal today, to grow in relationship with your family? Is your goal today - and there's no bad goal.

If your goal's to watch TV go in - I make that goal sometimes. Some days I put aside and I just watch movies all day, because my brain needs a reset button. All I do is study and write. I love to lose myself in a movie, nothing wrong with that - but at least I'll know if I attain it.

What's your goal today? Starting on a daily level, what are you going to accomplish today? If you didn't wake up this morning with full intention of doing something, the day will end, and you won't even know what you did! What do you intend to do today?

How about this: is there anything in your life that's not leading you to wholeness? Is there anything you're rationalising, that's actually slowly but surely leading your life to disrepair? Is there anything you're rationalising?

Next one: is your life working? Why not? What obviously needs to change for you to have life, light, and increase - and why not make that change now? What are you going to do, just wait another year? If you need to lose weight, I could tell you this: it's much easier to lose five kilos, than to wait until you need to lose 50. Why not go and lose the five? What are you waiting on?

Everybody has their alarm bell day, you know, with weight. It's like they step on the scale and go: okay that's it, I'm losing weight now. What is that for you? You watch the biggest loser, and here's what I can't believe about the biggest loser. You have people who are on a show dedicated to obese people losing weight, and then they're all surprised they're obese? Like, I don't care what you weigh, as long as you're happy with yourself, it doesn't matter to me. Weigh whatever you'd like, as long as you're happy with yourself - but don't go on a show dedicated to obese people losing weight, and then be surprised you're obese.

They all stand in their underwear on a scale, and it goes beep-beep-beep-beep-beep and then it comes up however many kilos they weigh, and they all respond the same. It's amazing to me, 24 out 24 they all respond the same. [Boo hoo] Then the host has to do a good TV show. The host says: can you tell me what's going on in your heart right now? They all say the same thing: I can't believe this happened to me.

It happened to you - what are you talking about? Your blood type is chicken gravy, what do you mean? I mean like, are you serious? Look, nothing bothers me about how much people weigh, as long as you're happy with yourself. I think that's great, but don't have a blood type of chicken gravy, and then be surprised. This didn't happen to you!

Like one contestant I saw was 5' 1" and 180 kilos, and you're going: where's your alarm button there? Like what were you thinking at 140? I had a guy come see me once, and he said: this is a disaster, I'm in an emergency. I said: what happened? He said: I'm $60,000 in debt. I was like: today?! What did you buy?

The truth is, he had been accumulating debt all along, but $60,000 was his button. Where's your panic button financially? Everybody has an internal-angst point. Everybody has an imaginary number, and you know it, yours is different than mine. Everybody has a number, that if your bank account gets below that number, it feels like zero to you. What is that for you, and does it need to be adjusted?

I met a guy whose panic button wasn't until negative $60,000. I couldn't live with that guy. The guy's a maniac! That's crazy stuff to me. My zero point's way, way higher than that. What do you need to change? What obviously needs to change, and what are you waiting on? Are you waiting to need to lose another two kilos before you start? I mean what are you doing? What are you doing?

Let's say it this way. Are you willing to be a do-er, or are you okay just being a hear-er? Are you willing to be a doer; or are you okay just being a hearer?

My last question to you is this: rock or sand? Do you want to land on your feet, or do you prefer landing on your face? Rock or sand - the choice is yours.

I urge you to be guys who overcome; but you cannot overcome unless you live with full intention to overcome. This thing will never happen accidentally, ever. I urge you to be men of the kingdom, who seek God, and seek His purposes with full intention, full focus, full dream, live with full clear desires. I urge you to be people like that. Lord bless us and help us, give us the bravery to see things differently, and the irresistible urge to respond to what we see. May be we be doers and not just hearers. May we respond today. Amen.



Are You Worthy (1 of 2) (Shane Willard)  

Sat 16 Mar 2013 AM « Back to Top

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There are four verses in the Bible that say homosexuality's wrong. There are 2000 verses in the Bible that tell us to love each other, so maybe we've got our emphasis wrong? Who is worthy to break the seals, and open the scrolls? But no one in heaven - so there's people already in heaven, who aren't worthy - no one in heaven, or earth, or under the earth, could open the scroll, or even look inside of it.

Jesus' invitation was not to be a certain way, in order to go somewhere. Jesus' invitation was to allow what is somewhere else to be established in you right now. The "Flames of Heaven" is God's relentless pursuit, to make you the best you can be in His kingdom, without taking your free will away. Hell will let you stay greedy, heaven won't; Hell will let you stay racist, heaven won't - lots of fire in heaven.

Jesus' message for His followers is this: get in line with God's kingdom today, as fast as you can, urgently. I urge you to do this. The whole world's at stake.A disciple is someone actively participating with God, to establish His kingdom on the earth

Are You Worthy (1 of 2)

Everybody here is mature enough to hear something they might not have thought of before, right? Oh good, so we're all open, and flexible and non-argumentative.

It's important, for a learning environment, that all of us are springs and not bricks; because if you come into a learning environment as a brick, you're going to leave the same, and that would be tragic.

It's very important too, to understand the difference between a sermon and a declaration. A sermon asks a question, and should get you to be introspective. It's not meant to be agreed with, or disagreed with. A sermon is meant to get you to think, and change, and challenge modes of thought. A declaration tells you what you already believe to be true; and you ought to say: amen; so today I'm coming in the spirit of a sermon.

Some of what we're going to talk about today has insinuations for what happens after we die, and let me be clear: anyone who tells you they know exactly what happens after you die, is full of crapolla okay? They don't know, they've never done it, and so we're guessing; and really the insinuations about what happens after you die are not important at all.

If I read Jesus correctly, the main focus of Jesus was: why are you waiting for what happens after you die? Why not allow heaven to be established in you right now? I want to talk to you about heaven in that notion okay? I'm going to just ask a few questions about it.

Was Jesus' main message: how to go to heaven? [No.] Would everybody agree with that? Then why is our main message that? It's a sermon, not a declaration, I'm just asking. Why is the number one question I get, when I travel the world: who's going to heaven, and who's going to hell? As if that's in my pay-grade, or yours; or was anywhere even close to Jesus' primary focus? Jesus is preaching to thousands of people, in what's called the Sermon on the Mount. He doesn't even give an altar call - hmm.

At the beginning of the Bible, what is God doing? He's making a new creation (where?) on the Earth. So in the beginning God, is making a new creation on the earth, and everything is submitted to that. At the end of the Bible, what is God doing? Revelation 21:5 - behold the lamb shouts from the throne, I make all things brand new, and there's a new city.

Heaven is coming down from God, out of heaven and invading earth. So at the end of the Bible, who's going to heaven? No one. Whatever is in heaven is coming down. This is not a denial of heaven. Heaven is a wonderful truth - because if heaven's not true then death wins, and that would be terrible.

But the goal isn't to get to heaven; the goal is: whatever is in heaven is coming down. So when Jesus framed thoughts on heaven, His thoughts on heaven were: hey, what I'm describing to you is coming to earth at some point, and that is a blessed hope; and My invitation is that you establish that in your heart now, so that if it happened tomorrow you'd be ready.

There was this urgency in Jesus' teaching. He told stories about virgins not being ready, and there was this urgency; and the point of the virgins not being ready is not: well some are in, or some are out. No, there are certain people who take establishing the kingdom seriously and urgently, and then there are other people who always say: oh, I'll get to it later, and they never do. Then they find themselves 'on the outs' in the kingdom, and it's not because they weren't in - it's just because they weren't ready.

So at the beginning of the Bible, God's talking about making a new creation on the earth. At the end of the Bible, God's talking about making a new creation on the earth; and everything in the middle of the Bible is about... God making a bunch of new creations on the earth, to prepare the earth for the new creation coming to the earth. Yet somehow our message became: how do you go somewhere else? How did that happen!

The point of Christianity was never: hey, let's get a bunch of people to be like us, so one day they'll go to heaven. The point of Christianity was to establish the kingdom of heaven in every place we see hell right now; that God wanted to multiply Himself through a body, to establish a kingdom on this earth, to prepare the earth for the kingdom coming to the earth.

The best question may not be: will you go to heaven when you die. The best question might be: if heaven invaded your life tomorrow, what parts of you would survive, and what parts of you would be burned up?

I started getting fascinated by this from one question. An older friend of mine, he's a pastor, and he asked me if I reckoned I would enjoy heaven. I said well of course I'm going to enjoy heaven, you can't stuff heaven up right? He said: I'm not so sure for myself. He said: the Holy Spirit's challenged me to do something that's changed my life forever. He said: I'd like to challenge you to do it. I said: sure. He said: go back and re-read everything Jesus said about heaven, and ask yourself if you would enjoy it - and be honest. Be honest! Read Jesus' descriptions of heaven, and then ask yourself if you would enjoy it. For instance, Jesus said: in heaven all the secret conversations of your heart will be revealed for all to see. Are you ready for that?

Jesus said: heaven is a table with every tribe, tongue and race; so if you're a racist, are you ready for that? Jesus said: in heaven, what God gave you that you used to change this world will be celebrated and multiplied; but what you buried, will be uprooted and given to someone else. Are you ready for that? What are you doing with what God gave you? If that happened tomorrow, what would be buried, and what would be celebrated?

Jesus said that in heaven, whether you started working at 6am or at 5pm, you get the same wage. Are you okay with that? I realised I wasn't. I started looking at these descriptions of heaven, and I asked myself the question: if this happened to me tomorrow, would I be okay?

Jesus' invitation was not: be a certain way, in order to go somewhere. Jesus' invitation was: allow what is somewhere else to be established in you right now. So if there's something He's describing that's going on in heaven, that I'm not okay with, then there's a problem in my heart today.

I realized that central to discipleship, and becoming a follower of Jesus, is not just believing the right things, and doing the right motions. It's actually participating with Him to establish the kingdom on the earth, to prepare the earth for the new kingdom coming to the earth.

Let me ask you this. How many mentions are there of fire and hell in the whole Bible? Depending on your translation it's somewhere between zero and six. Okay, let's go with the mean one, let's go six okay? So there are six mentions of fire and hell in the Bible.

How many mentions are there of fire in heaven? 229 - so how many sermons have you ever heard on fire in hell? Lots, grrr! How many sermons have you heard on fire in heaven? None. How did we do that? How did we pull off something that's emphasised 229 times, versus six? How did we emphasise the six, over the 229? How did we do that?

Of course we do it with a lot of things - there are four verses in the Bible that say homosexuality is wrong. There are 2000 verses in the Bible that tell us to love each other! So it’s okay for me to hate, because they're different, and it's wrong, and it's a sin! Wait a minute! Hate? God doesn't love them? What? Wait a minute, wait a minute. Maybe we've got our emphasis wrong.

229 mentions of fire in heaven, six mentions of fire in hell; so if your main goal in eternity is to avoid fire, then maybe hell's your better choice?

Hell will let you stay greedy, heaven won't. Hell will let you stay racist, heaven won't. Lots of fire in heaven!

If this group was smaller today, I would do this rabbinically, and I would say: somebody tell me of a scripture that talks about fire in heaven. Because there's so many of them, stuff would start going off; but the main one that come to my mind immediately is 1 Corinthians 3, where it talks about: if any person builds their foundation on the Lord Jesus Christ - right, that's a saved person, correct?

If any person builds their foundation on the Lord Jesus Christ, whether they use wood, hay and stubble, or gold, silver, costly stones, they're still on the foundation of Jesus. I like that.

In other words, whether you're rich or whether you're poor, if your foundation is Jesus, it's the same alright?

Then it says: no matter what you use to build your house, in that day it will be revealed with fire. Hang on a second - are we talking about saved people here? Yes. Are we talking about fire? Yes. Fire and saved people - does that go together? Yes.

It says: that day will reveal it with fire; and what the builder built that can remain in God's kingdom will be celebrated; but what he built that cannot remain in God's kingdom - it will be burned up. The builder himself will be saved, yet only as one escaping through the flames of heaven. Hmm…

So here's my question: if you entered into heaven today, what parts of you would survive, and what parts of you would be burned up?

I'm talking to people who've given their Saturday to study God's word right? I don't need to lead you to the Lord right? So now that you're like forgiven and "in", my question is: now that you're in, what on your life will last?

The question isn't: are you going to go to heaven; it's obvious the builder's saved, and he's saved to the end. It's not that the builder's not saved. He himself is saved, yet as only one escaping through the... flames of heaven.

Dallas Willard, the great Christian philosopher, calls that passage the Flames of Heaven. One rabbi says it this way: that the flames of heaven is God's relentless pursuit, to make you the best you can be in His kingdom, without taking your free will away.

The invitation of Jesus, and at the epistle writers, is this: whatever's on your life right now, that cannot exist in heaven, I urge you to go ahead and get it off your life now.

It might help you to understand, that in the New Testament, the word translated "judgement". When I say judgement, what images come to your mind immediately? A guy, normally a white guy, in a black robe with a wig, correct? And he's got a gavel, and he's pronouncing people guilty or not guilty. Is that not the image we get, when I say: the judgement is passed?

Any time you're reading a piece of literature, you have to ask yourself three questions: who wrote it; who was it written to; how would they have taken it, at the time?

Was that the image of judgement in the ancient Hebrew culture? The word translated judgement in the New Testament is actually an apple-farming term that means "to prune an apple tree, in order to increase fruitfulness". The word is Colossus.

In December you've got three times as many apples. You've got all these small apples, and you might think: well, if you leave them all there, you've got three times as many apples; but if you do that, there are not enough nutrients in the tree to make proper sized apples; so you would have three times as many apples, but no one would buy them. They'd be small, and they'd be soft; so what you do is you cut the excess apples off, and it drives the nutrients in the tree to the rest of the apples, which gives us proper-sized apples that we eat. That is the word colossus.

So in the ancient world, when the word colossus was used, they didn't think of a black-robe-wearing judge with a white wig and a gavel; they thought of a farmer with pruning shears. What's on you that is hurting you, and I'm going to cut that off. Think about how Jesus talks about judgment. He says: in that day I will sit as a vine dresser, and you're the vine; and whatever branches on you are not bearing good fruit - I'll cut them off. In other words, I'm going to look at your life and whatever's on your life that's hurting you - I'm going to prune it.

So think about the scripture Jesus said. In English it says: judge yourself here, so you won't be judged there. A better way to say it would be: prune yourself here, so you can avoid pruning there.

In other words, whatever's on your life that can't exist in God's good world - go ahead and get it off now - that way you avoid God pruning it off of you anyway.

That for followers of Jesus, our end goal should not be: to be forgiven. It's sort of like: phew, I'm forgiven, I'll just sit around and wait to go to heaven. That is the exact opposite of Jesus' message.

Jesus' message for His followers is this: get in line with God's kingdom today, as fast as you can, urgently. I urge you to do this. The whole world's at stake. Come on people, come on! We need to establish the kingdom of God on this earth.

Jesus died, and rose from the dead, and He came back from the dead, and how much did He talk about heaven? None! How much did He talk about hell? None! That is amazing, considering He just preached there. I find that amazing. What I find more amazing is: no one asked Him. Jesus comes back from the dead, and no one asked Him.

You guys know me. If I died today, and you came to my funeral on Wednesday, and then I showed up here next Sunday and ruined your service, how many questions would we get through before someone asks: what actually happened? No one did that, though. Jesus comes back from the dead, and no one says: hey, what's heaven like? What's hell like? I heard You preached there, how was Your altar call? How did that go? When you rose from the dead, it says: tombs emptied up everywhere - was that Your altar call? Are You going to write a book about Your 23 minutes there, and make a billion dollars? That would be awesome if You did that. NO! No one did that.

Jesus comes back from the dead, and this is their response: oh great, You're back. Are we going to take over Rome now? That's an odd response, unless they thought He was about establishing the kingdom on the earth. Jesus is not about getting a whole group of people somewhere else. Jesus is about taking what is somewhere else, and getting it to the earth, and He's entrusting us to do that.

So here's my question: if that happened tomorrow, where would you fit? You say: well I'm forgiven. Good. Good! Yes, amen - but then what? Then what? How would you go with the flames of heaven?

If you're the builder, what part of your life would suffer loss, and what part of you would be celebrated? By the way - that's a question, not a statement. I'm not looking for you to agree with me. I'm just asking the question.

There are all these images. Ever read Malachi, Chapter 2? It says: and who can stand the day of His coming? Who can stand the day of the Lord, for He will purify His people with a refiner's fire, or a launderer's soap?

By the way, these are metaphors. God is not literally setting people on fire. As a matter of fact, in Leviticus, He commands His people not to do it. So if He commands His people not to set people on fire, does it stand to reason He would keep His own rules? God is not a 10 year old boy with a lighter, a magnifying glass, and daddy-issues.

Because white people are weird - you start talking about flames and heaven, people go: whoa! Well I don't want to go there! I don't want to be set on fire - that would hurt. No, come on. The word translated fire is the word pure, p-u-r-e, pure. All forms of the word purity come from this word.

Essentially it's what the rabbi said: that the Flames of Heaven is God's relentless pursuit to make you the best you could be in God's kingdom, without taking your free will away.

In other words, there's all these images; Malachi, Chapter 2, the refiners fire. In Jeremiah he says: he will complete you, like a potter does a clay pot. Hang on, how does a potter finish a clay pot? Fires it up! Obviously a metaphor - none of you look like a pot.

Isaiah 42, he says: I will consume them with my fire, yet they will not understand it. Once again, obviously a metaphor - if you douse someone with gasoline and set them on fire, the main concern should never be: do they get what you're saying? These are metaphors! Euphemisms! Analogies!

So I started looking at this, and I wanted to be brave enough in my own life to be a disciple. I knew that if I was going to be a disciple, I had to be willing to allow heaven to be established in me today.

If you're not willing to ask this question – its okay, I don't think any less of you. I just have found that this has really changed my life, so I want to share it with you, and that is this:

Where are you allowing heaven to be established in you today; and where are you resisting it?

Only you know the answer to that, but I'm going to share the one I had the biggest problem with. I looked at the situation, and I was actually honest enough to ask myself this question, and then I asked my four closest friends: was this true about me - because they'll be honest.

I asked my four closest friends: would I sit down at a table with every tribe, tongue, and race, without having racist thoughts? They all told me: yeah, oh yeah, yeah, you could do that. I felt like I could.

I said: if I entered into an environment where I had to be honest and genuine, would I be okay? They said: Shane, we feel like you would be okay, and I felt like I'd be okay. I've got things to work out there, but I feel like I'd be okay; and then I said: well what about if account was taken on how I was using what God gave me, what do you reckon? I feel like my ratio could get better, but I feel like I'm on the right track. How do you feel? And they said: oh yeah, yeah, yeah, you'd be okay.

But when I got to this one, I didn't even have to ask them. So I want to share that one with you, because if it bothered me this bad, I'm sure it would bother you, and let's just see where we stand with this. This is Revelation, Chapter 1, then we're going to look at something Jesus said okay? This is what it says:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a scroll with writing on both sides, and sealed with seven seals, and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice: who is worthy?

Now if you're taking notes, you want to note that phrase: who is worthy. The question I want to ask in this session is: are you worthy? Are you worthy?

Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scrolls? But no one in heaven - so there's people already in heaven who aren't worthy - no one on earth, nor under the earth. That pretty much covers it right? No one in heaven, or earth, or under the earth, could open the scroll, or even look inside of it.

Now let me walk you through some history here, okay. Somebody with some confidence, tell me who wrote the Book of Revelation? [John.] John. Who was ruling the world, when John wrote the Book of Revelation? Romans, the Roman Empire was ruling the world. Now look at this first verse:

Then I saw in the right of him who sat on the throne - hang on, who was sitting on the throne, when John wrote the Book of Revelation? Domitian (in real life). Domitian was the emperor who put John on the island of Patmos.

Domitian was famous for something in the Roman Empire. He said he was the son of God, which was nothing new, because all the Caesars said they were the son of God.

But the centre of the Roman Empire at his time, was a place in Ephesus called the Agora. The Agora was the centre of mercantilism for the entire empire. Anybody who was coming from the East, from India, they could come to the Agora and meet with people from Spain, and they would come together, buy and sell, and then go back to their home town - so this was the centre of mercantilism.

So the advisors to Domitian said: you ought to take advantage of this, and you ought to put a special tax on the Agora. Domitian resisted this idea, and he said: no, I'll lose my popularity with the people; but here's what I'll do.

I'll make them give an offering to me, as the son of God, for the divine privilege of having me be their leader; and he proved his son-of-God-ness by entering into Ephesus. In Ephesus, there was this huge place where all the gods were, with big columns and stuff, and what he did was he put a ceiling on top of the gods; and then on top of the ceiling, he built a statue of himself over the top of the gods.

He said: this is obvious that I'm God, because the gods didn't stop me from doing this; and I'm not only God, I'm the greatest God. He put himself over all the gods, and so in Ephesus in the Agora, whether you were coming by land from the east, or by sea from the west, the first person you saw was the statue of Domitian.

So the Jews called him: the beast who comes from land and sea. In one sect in Jerusalem, they called him the dragon; but in most places, they called him: the beast who comes from land and sea.

So he set up Ecclesias - churches. He set up Ecclesias, and he's poking fun at the Jews. What he did was, he had his mighty deeds inscribed on stone tablets, and hung in the churches. Well hang on, if you're a Jew, what was written on stone tablets, that's very important to you? The Ten Commandments. In other words he's like: you've got your stone tablets, I've got mine - and mine are more visible than yours. Yours is in a crate buried somewhere, no one can find it. How about this! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, right?

And so he put his mighty deeds on these stone tablets, and he had his underlings there; and the rule was that: before you could buy and sell in the Agora, you had to come make an offering to Domitian as the Son of God, just for the divine privilege of having the Son of God rule over you.

The problem was: how did you enforce it? How did you know who had given their offering, and who didn't? So he had his underlings there, and if you gave your offering to Domitian, you were given a mark on your forehead or your forehand, and that told the people in the Agora that you could now buy and sell.

So in 85AD, in Ephesus in the Agora, what did you have to have on your forehead or your forehand in order to buy and sell? You had to have the mark of the beast, the mark of the beast.

So Domitian was a narcissist, and obviously he built a statue of himself over the top of the Gods. So every year he had something called the Domitian Games - which is very creatively-titled to honor him - so the Domitian Games took place in the Roman coliseum; and the Roman Empire was divided into 12 regions.

Have you guys ever seen the Hunger Games? If you've seen it, it's exactly that okay; where you had 12 regions sitting in a big coliseum, and he would stand - think about the language of Revelation. He would stand before the Roman Coliseum, and he would make region one stand up, and he would say: this I have for you, but this I have against you; and this I have for you, and this I have against you.

When you walked into the coliseum, you were given a white robe and golden crowns, in order to make a giant, massive choir, to sing the praises of Domitian. They would sing the same hymn every year at the Domitian Games: Worthy are you oh Domitian, oh son of God. Worthy are you to receive honour and glory and riches and blessing. Worthy are you, oh Domitian, oh son of God. Worthy are you, to receive honor and glory and riches and blessing. They would stand and they would sing this song to honor Domitian, and they would cast down their golden crows around the feet of Domitian. Think about any movie you've ever seen about Roman Empires. When the Caesar is standing in the coliseum - what's happening? People are throwing gifts at his feet.

Then the Domitian Games would happen, and there was all this death and carnage, and hatred and terror.

The way the Domitian Games ended was the people would stand, and they would sing another song: Worthy are you oh Domitian, oh son of God - you who are worthy of honour and glory and riches and thanks.

And the final character of the Domitian Games would come out, and his job was to clean up all the dead bodies, and his name was Hell, Hades.

Hades - so think about Revelation, Chapter 4 - and I saw the new kingdom and Jesus is sitting on the throne - not Domitian. Jesus is sitting on the throne, and we're all wearing white robes, and we're casting down our golden crowns around the glassy sea, and we will sing to Him a new song.

In other words, the revelation that John has of heaven, is that Domitian's not in charge - Jesus is. It was hope for the oppressed. It was: there's a new day coming.

So Domitian, think about when you see ancient pictures of Caesars. What are they always holding in their hands? Scrolls.

Here was the rule: they would have scribes follow them around, and they would write their mighty deeds in these scrolls, and they would seal the scrolls. In order to read about the mighty deeds of Caesar, you had to be deemed worthy by Caesar to open the seal.

So John's taking a jab at Caesar here, he's saying: then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne, a scroll with writing on both sides, and sealed with seven seals.

In other words, your guy's good enough to fill up one side of a scroll; our guy is so awesome it takes both sides. Ha ha! It was sealed with seven seals!

Then he does something that's very common to the Roman Empire, he says: who is worthy to break the seals, and open the scroll? Who is worthy to get close to this king, in other words. Who is close enough to know him? Watch what the answer is:

But no one in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth could open the scroll, or even look inside of it.

So in John's initial revelation of heaven, who makes it? Nobody! In his initial revelation of heaven, he doesn't think anybody's going to make it, and watch his response:

So I wept, and I wept, because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll and look inside of it.

So hang on, so John's initial response, to knowing that no one was going to make it, was that he wept? Let me speak frankly to you. As Christians and followers of Jesus, if we ever think about someone not making it, and we lose our ability to weep over it, we've missed the point. If we ever come across like: oh yeah, they're not going to make it, and good on them, God can get them - that is not the point.

When John thought no one was going to make it, he wept, and he wept. Here's my question: have you lost your weep? Have you lost your passion for the lost? Have you taken sort of aah-whatever, and then underneath all that there's this elitism that makes this nauseating? Let's keep reading.

Then one of the elders said to me: do not weep! See, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed!

Any presentation of the gospel that does not end with God getting what He wants is not the gospel. Jesus gets what He wants. He wins. The root of David has triumphed! He is able to open the scroll, and its seven seals. Questions that we need to ask ourselves:

1) If the kingdom of heaven invaded your life today, what part of you would survive, and what part would be burned up?

2) If you walked into heaven today, would you recognise it as heaven, or would you think it was hell?

3) Are Jesus' descriptions of the kingdom of heaven congruent with your life? Where would your life struggle to live in that environment today?

This is all what it means to be a disciple. Discipleship has nothing to do with: I believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus only qualifies you to be a demon with flesh on. No, no. It's: are you LIVING it? Are you establishing that? That's a disciple - a disciple is someone actively participating with God to establish His kingdom on the earth.

Maybe the better question is this:

4) What pruning needs to take place in your life now, so that the kingdom can be established in you today?

In other words, what's holding you back? Where is heaven not already established in your heart? Now with that as the backdrop, this is the one that bothered me the most. I looked at everything Jesus said about heaven, and I realised that I had darkness in my heart on this topic. I realised there was a black spot in there as big as Australia, that I could not get away from it; and once I was brave enough to look at it with the Holy Spirit, I realised how sick I was making myself. This was nauseating to me.

Now when we look at Jesus' descriptions of heaven, all sense of worthiness will be burned up. In other words, if there's anything in you, that thinks you deserve heaven more than the other person, then that's going to get burned off of you. That's going to get burned off of you! This is how he describes heaven.

This is how he describes heaven: For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner, who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day, and sent them into his vineyard.

Okay, so it's early in the morning - let's say sunrise, 6am and he agrees to pay this group of people one denarius to work in his vineyard for today. In those days, one denarius was considered a fair day's pay, so he's being fair.

He says: at about nine in the morning, he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing; and he said: you also go work in my vineyard, and I'll pay you whatever's right.

So they went out; and he went out again at noon; and about three in the afternoon; and did the same thing at about five in the afternoon. He went out, and still found others standing around, and he asked them: why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?

Because no one has hired us they answered; and he said to them: you also go work in my vineyard - so are you following the story? 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 5pm he is hiring people.

The first people he said: I'll give you a denarius; then as he hired more people, he doesn't tell them what their pay is. He just says: I'll pay you whatever's right; and so the assumption is that: if a denarius is a whole day's pay, then there would be a sliding scale alright. Watch what happens.

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foremen: call the workers and pay them their wages - beginning with the last ones hired, and going on to the first.

Hang on, if you were the first one hired, how do you feel about that? He's paying the people who only worked an hour, before he pays you. You would hate that right? I mean, can I get an amen on that, like we're all in the same boat there, alright? But then you'd rationalise it, and you'd say: well that makes sense, because he's going to pay them less, so it's easier to work out their pay - because he's going to pay them less.

Watch what happens - and the workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came, and each one received a denarius. Whoa! Wait a minute! A denarius is what the people who agreed to work all day are going to be paid right, so if you'd worked from six in the morning until night, and you saw someone who only worked an hour get paid a denarius, what is your assumption? You're assumption is: you're going to get more. Well, if they got a denarius, and I worked 12 times more, there must be 12 denarius coming my way right? Watch, it doesn't work that way. Watch what happens.

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more, but each one of them also received a denarius. Whoa! Oh - and when they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner - as you do.

These who were hired last, worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us. You have made them equal to us, who have borne the burden, and the work of the heat of the day.

So in this story, followers of the landowner are angry with the landowner, because he pays people who do less work the same wages he paid them - ooh! And I knew I wasn't okay with this.

I was just like these people, like I feel like I've worked hard for God, travelled 170,000 miles last year, spoke in 13 countries. Last year they had to do surgery on my legs, because the blood was pooling in my feet, because I was sitting in economy class too much without proper hosing, so the blood - my feet were turning colors. They had to do a $12,000 surgery on my feet, in order to reroute the blood in my feet, to get back up to my heart properly - and you taught Sunday School, ooh!

Oh, you work in the parking lot - ooh! You come to church twice a month, ooh! And I realised that there was something in me that really believed that I deserved more of heaven than you - because I was working harder than you. That is a horrifically dark spot that I knew I had to deal with. I knew that I was the same as these guys. How about you?

Is there anybody that you can think of right now, that you believe you deserve heaven more than them? What if they're not like you? Is there any group of people, that you think you deserve heaven more than them?

See in heaven, no one's worthy, so everybody's there by grace; so if we start comparing who's better, we're just comparing levels of unworthiness, and that's just silly. Is this getting to anybody yet? Are we dealing with something here?

Check this out: but he answered one of them; and said: am I not being fair to you friend? Like, Jesus isn't mad at him; He's like: you're my friend. I don't understand your complaint though. Didn't you agree to work for denarius? It's like, he's confused. He's like: look, I don't understand. You said you'd work for a denarius, and I gave you a denarius, and now you're upset? What's the matter?

And what's the obvious answer? Well you paid them more, and Jesus is like - watch what happens - He says: take your pay and go. I love this - I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. In other words, why are you paying them more than us? Just 'coz I want to. Why are you paying the same as us? We've borne all the work in the head of the day, why are you doing that? I just feel like it.

In other words sometimes God doesn't have to explain Himself. We love for God to explain Himself, but we have to own the fact that sometimes He just won't.

God, why did you give someone with that much character flaw, so much gifting? Oh, I just wanted to. Why are you paying them the same as us? Just felt like it. Watch what He does - and in true rabbinical style, He ends this story with two questions that are so relevant to us:

1) Don't I have the right to do what I want to do with my own money?

2) Or, are you envious because I'm generous?

In other words, Jesus says: I can only see two conclusions here; you have a problem, that I paid someone that you think works less than you. I'm giving them the same wages I'm giving you - and you have a problem with that; and the only possible reason that you have a problem with that, is that you really don't believe I can do what I want to do. If that's not your problem, then you're envious, because I'm generous. Need I remind you, that none of you were worthy to work for me to begin with; so whatever you got was by grace anyhow?

So let's deal with these two questions: 1) Can God do what He likes; or does He have to run it by you first? Could I get an amen, that He could do what He likes at least? [Amen!]

Alright, so your problem isn't that God can't do what He wants - although I think you might have a problem with lots of what Jesus did. I'm convinced no Christian today would have followed Jesus back in His day - He was too radical. I'll give you a couple of examples, like there was this one time, where there's this prostitute, and Jesus is speaking to her - problem one.

Jesus is talking to this prostitute, and this prostitute is so moved by the compassion of Jesus, that she kneels down and washes His feet with her hair. Remember the story? And what does Jesus say to her? You're sins are forgiven! Is Jesus allowed to do that? She didn't pray the prayer. She didn't ask Jesus in her heart. She didn't believe in her heart and confess with her mouth - and Jesus forgives her sin. Is He allowed?

What if you had been there, and He asked your advice, what would you have said? What if He'd have turned to you, and this lady's washing His feet, and He would have said: man, what do you reckon I do with her? I don't know Jesus, what do you reckon? I think I'm going to forgive all of her sins. Would you have said: well Jesus, it's your world, do what you like; or would you be the person giving Jesus all the scriptures as to why He can't forgive her without a sacrifice, or a sinner's prayer, or something else?

Because if you're number two - you're annoying, right? Can Jesus not do what He likes? Is He allowed to forgive someone's sin, because she washed His feet with her hair? Is He allowed - because He did. Or is He a heretic?

Aren't you glad that's not the rule, right; like can you imagine meeting her one day sir; her saying: how did you meet the risen Christ? You say: I came to Bay City Outreach Centre, and God moved on my heart, and at the end of the service the pastor gave me an opportunity to respond to Jesus, and I prayed a prayer and asked Jesus in my heart, and it changed my life forever. It's the greatest thing I ever did - ever. How would you feel if she looked at you and went: what? You didn't wash His feet with your hair? Oh no, I'm in, you're out; I'm right, you're wrong. I mean with all respect to all of you - for you to wash his feet with your hair, you'd have to be turned upside down and used like a buffer. Is Jesus allowed?

Hey, like there's this one time Jesus has this encounter with this guy in a tree, and he says: Zacchaeus, I think I want to eat with you. Zacchaeus is so moved with the compassion of Jesus, that he says: look, I'll give half of what I have to the poor, and Jesus says: that's it, salvation has come to your house! Whoa! Is Jesus allowed? Oooh! He hadn't done anything, except for to express that he was going to give half what he had to the poor. Can you get saved that way? Are you allowed? Is Jesus allowed?

And what if you could have been there and He asked your advice. What if there was this guy up a tree and this happened, and He turned to you and said: hey, what do you reckon I do with this guy? I don't know Jesus, what do you reckon? I think I'm going to call him saved, but I'm not just going to call him saved, I'm going to call everybody in his house saved. Would you have said: um, oh, well that doesn't make sense to me, but it's your world Jesus, and You could do what You like; or would you be the person giving all the verses as to why Jesus can't do something?

Can I not do what I want to do, with my own money? There was this one time - is Jesus allowed to do what He wants? Do I still get an amen on that? [Amen.] Or are we questioning ourselves now? Oh good.

There's this one time Jesus is having a particularly bad day, and He ended up nailed to a cross right - pretty bad day right? I know, you think your day is stressful, but not much compared to that. Jesus finds Himself nailed to a cross, it's a pretty stressful day, and He still finds Himself thinking about other people. He's still up on the cross going: oh, forgive them. Yes, forgive them - and then there's this guy on a cross next to Him, that's having an equally bad day; and I don't know what you know about crucifixion, but it's very difficult to breathe. He looks at Jesus, and he says: um, ah, please remember me? And what does Jesus say? Well Bo, you better hurry up and say the sinner's prayer, or they're not going to think your saved in 2013. No! What does Jesus say? He says: today you will be with me - in paradise. Hold on, where did Jesus go that day? Hell - so is heaven and hell in the same room? Umm, is Jesus allowed? What if you had been there?

What if Jesus was hanging on the cross, and this guy says: please remember me? Jesus says: hey, what do you reckon I do with that? You go: I don't know Jesus, what do you reckon? I reckon we're going to call him in, how about that? Would you have said: well Jesus, this is Your world, do what You want; or would you be the person giving Him all the scriptures as to why He can't let the guy in - because Romans 10, 9 and 10 clearly says: you have to believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth! Is Jesus allowed to call that guy in, just on a request: please remember me? Is Jesus allowed? Don't I have the right to do what I want to do, with my own money? Could Jesus do what He likes? Everybody instantly says: yes; but hang on, would you be okay with that?

My personal favorite, there's this one time Jesus was preaching, and it says: the house was full, and there was a paralysed guy outside and couldn't get in, so his friends took him to the roof of the house, and took the roof off.

Now I was wrong about this: I used to picture like a straw roof, and they would cut a hole in it - that's actually not true. I had a history expert from Israel correct me on this. He said: in that region, because of the climate, they had to have stone roofs; and so to remove the roof of the house would have required moving an entire slab of stone. That's why it would have taken all four of them, and so they removed this entire slab of stone, and they lower the guy in. It's one of the most chaotic scenes in Jesus' whole ministry. They lower him in from the roof of the house; and it says this: and Jesus saw the faith of his friends, and proclaimed his sins forgiven. Is Jesus allowed? And what if you were there? What if He asked your advice: hey, what do you reckon I do with this? I don't know Jesus, what do You reckon? I think I'm going to forgive his sins. But Jesus, he has no faith! I know, but his friends have faith, we'll count that.

Would you be saved today if you lived back then; or would you have ran from Jesus - because He's not allowed? Is Jesus allowed to do what He likes?

You say: Shane, what do you do with that scripture? I don't know, but I do know this: if you're a mum, and you're believing for your unbelieving children - you keep doing that. Jesus sees that stuff somehow. A later writer said it this way: The faith of a saved wife, can save her unbelieving husband. Do we believe that? Was Paul allowed to write that? Would Paul be allowed to preach in churches, if he said that? What do you do with that? I don't know.

Somebody asked me: so Shane are you saying you can go to heaven if you marry the right woman? My answer is this: I have no idea. Who goes to heaven, and who goes to hell, is outside my pay grade. What I do know, is that if you marry the wrong one, you will live in hell today! Like really past the far depths of it!

Is Jesus allowed? Can I not do what I want to do with my own money? We have to deal with this belief system. Any belief system in us that says: God has to conform to the way we see things, has to die, for heaven to be established. Can Jesus not do what He wants to do?

Hey, my personal favourite: there's a rich guy. Any time a story in the Bible starts there's a certain rich guy, with no name - it ends poorly right. There's a rich guy, and this rich guy came to Jesus and said: what must I do to inherit eternal life? Remember? What does Jesus tell him?

Well buddy, you've got to ask me in your heart - everybody knows that. There's this prayer you've got to pray, and you've got to ask me into your heart, to be your Lord and savior - that's where eternal life comes from. Is that what Jesus says to him? No. Somebody tell me loud with confidence, what does Jesus say to the guy?

Sell what you have, give it the poor, and eternal life will be yours! Woo-hoo! Is Jesus allowed to say that; or is Jesus a heretic too? And what would happen if someone preached that?

What would happen if, on a big enough stage, someone said: it's possible to inherit eternal life, by selling what you have, and giving it to the poor? What would happen to that guy? What would he be called? Heretic! There'd be websites dedicated to his honor!

So how far has Christianity come from Christ, that a direct quote from Christ is now heresy? Is Jesus allowed? Is someone responding to Jesus by being generous - is that not appropriate? Is someone responding to Jesus by washing His feet with their hair - is that not appropriate? Is someone responding to Jesus by going: please remember me; is that not appropriate? They all respond to Jesus, but they respond to Jesus their way.

See people like to say: Jesus is the ONLY way, Shane, Jesus is the ONLY way. Is that true? Is that okay to say that? Yes, that's okay to say that. I'm not tricking you people, like I don't know; like yes, of course that's okay to say that - probably not with that face... but - yeah, don't say it with that face. It's ugly, don't do that, but Jesus is the only way. But there's a big difference between saying: Jesus is the only way; and saying: my way to Jesus, is the only way to Jesus. That's two very different things. Does everybody have to get saved like you?

What if there was a 17 year old Mongolian kid, who was taking a nature walk, and that day he sees a river flowing into a stream. He looks at it, and something goes off in his heart; and he looks at the sky, and he says: whoever made this - I can't wait to meet you one day. I think You're amazing, and anything I can do to meet You - I would love to; because I'm assuming You're the same guy made the stars and the trees, and I just find You fascinating.

What if that 17 year old Mongolian kid dies early, and he meets Jesus, and Jesus says: hi, I'm the way. The Mongolian kid says: are You the guy that made the river? Yeah, that was Me. You're amazing! I am so glad to meet You, let's have dinner, let's have some coffee, I've got tons of questions to ask You. I find You fascinating! The stars too? Yep. Trees? Yepper, that was Me. Oh great! When do we get to have coffee? This is going to be fantastic!

What is Jesus' response to him? Is it: yeah, but did you pray the prayer? Prayer, what prayer? Oh, I know, I sent Baptist missionaries to your village, but unfortunately their car broke down on the way there, and you didn't - please tell me you said the prayer before you died? Oh no, I didn't know, whatever, I'll do whatever You want me to do now.

Oh unfortunately, it's just too late - there's this torture chamber I've built for most people, and you're just going to have to go in there, because you have to. Really? Really? Really?

Is the Mongolian kid's response to God just as valid as yours? He's doing it with the light he's been given, are you kidding me? Is God allowed to do what He likes?

What they believed in Jesus' day was: one sacrifice, per family, per year. That's what gave you forgiveness. Jesus shows up and says: one sacrifice, for the whole world, for all time. How many of you were here last year when I preached a message called The Goat Has Left the Building? Yeah, okay, that was the one sacrifice, per family, per year; so Jesus comes in and goes: ah no, don't worry about that, we'll just do one sacrifice for the whole world for all time. That'll do it, that'll be good. Would you have followed Him, or would you have run from Him?

Jesus is amazing. I find Jesus so amazing, and to be a disciple of just Jesus requires us to have views of God that are bigger than what we thought. Maybe, just maybe God is nicer than what you think.

So two questions: one, does God have the right to do what He wants to do? Can I get an amen on that? [Amen!] Alright, so if we've established God can do what he likes, then our problem must be number two: are we envious because He's generous?

N if you don't believe God can do anything He wants, then keep working on number one; but if you believe God can do anything He wants, and you have a problem with God giving others the same wages He gives you, even though they've done less work, then the problem is that we are envious because He's generous.

What about - and this is where I had to stop, because I firmly believe God can do what He likes; like I have no trouble with God saving a Mongolian kid through a vision in a star. I have no problem with that at all, and here's why: I just think God does that, number one.

Number two, there's this passage in 1 Corinthians, it's either 1 or 2 Corinthians, Chapter 10; Paul is telling the story of the Exodus to Corinthian people, and he says: there's this one time where Moses got water out of a rock, and the rock was Jesus Christ. So is there ever a moment where Jesus can take the form of a rock in the desert? And if He can take the form of a rock in a desert, what else could He take the form of?

I have no trouble with God appearing to people. I have no trouble with God working in the hearts of people. I have no trouble with Him doing it outside the Bible. In some ways, I think that might be easier. I'm serious, there's no bias, there's no - you have a vision of a heavenly being, it's a bit more compelling than an intellectual argument. I have no trouble with that at all.

Oh, you want to hear something cool that I experienced recently? I don't have my iPhone but trust me, I have it on a picture. I went to the Smithsonian Institute, and in the Museum of Natural History they have a mummy exhibit.

What they explained to us, was that in those days in Egypt, that they believed that if you died for instance - and let's say that we were your pastors - that we were supposed to write what kind of life you lived, on the inside of your coffin; and on the other side God would open your sarcophagus - we'll just say coffin, because sarcophagus is just ridiculously long to say.

So God would open your coffin, and He would read what your life was like, and go: okay, you're alright; or okay, you're not; and so it was based on what we wrote about you, right? And so then we were held accountable by God to being honest, because if He lets a jerk into heaven - that would just be terrible right?

This is how primitive their view of God was right; and so they have a preserved mummy's tomb there from 2200BC, from a town called Giza. Of course they write it all - on the inside of the sarcophagus, there's all these hieroglyphics about what his life was like. So they had a hieroglyphics expert translate it, and this is what it says.

Now you guys know Matthew 25 right - for when I was hungry you get - okay, right. This is what it said. By the way, 2200BC, this is before the Torah, this is before Abraham, or any of them came to Egypt. This is before all that. This is what it said:

I said, and repeated good things; I said what was just, I did what was just. I gave food to the hungry, and clothing to the naked, and I sought to restore dignity to all those who don't have it. I was kind to my mother, and respectful to my father. I did not speak with a malicious tone to anyone, because I desired to be a person of good character, so that I would be noticed by the one true God, and by people, forever.

What! Where'd he get that? Oh wait, there's more. Check this out:

I said and repeated good things. I said what was just, I did what was just. I gave food to the hungry, clothing to the naked. I restored dignity to the broken. I was kind to my mother, I was respectful to my father. I never said anything with malice intent towards anyone, because I desired to be a person of good character, so that I would be noticed by the one true God and by people forever.

How did ancient Egyptians write? Hieroglyphics. Do you know what the picture to “say and repeat good things” is in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics? It's a head under a cross!

It means: to say and repeat good things; so I asked the hieroglyphics person, I said: what is this? He said: oh, the symbol to say and repeat good things, is: to submit your thinking to a higher authority of the cross!

It was before the Roman Empire, there was no cross! Where did he get that? Where did they get that? So I asked the guy there, I said: where did they get this? There's no Roman Empire! He said: maybe God meant what He said, when He said He was writing His ways on the hearts of men. Maybe God doesn't need your help?

So in 2200BC, there's this guy that died, and on the inside of his coffin he had written, that he submitted his thinking to the authority of the cross. Does anybody want to make a case that he's burning in hell today? Is God allowed? Maybe God's been at work in the hearts of people for a long, long time. Can God do what He likes? Yes!

I had no problem with God doing what He liked; so if I have a problem with God giving the same pay to people who've done less work, my problem must be number two: are you envious because I'm generous? What, about the generosity of God, threatens me?

I always find it amazing when I talk to groups of Christians who're convinced they're in; so I've got a group of people, all of you would think you're in right - like when you die, you're going to heaven, correct? Everybody will think they're in? Okay, good. So I agree. I'm with you. Amen right. But I'm always intrigued when I preach in front of a group of people, who all think they're in, that if I make God nicer than they think, they're threatened by that.

If you already think you're in, and I make God nicer than you thought, does that not just further solidify you're in-ness? Why would you be mad about that? There must be something in you, that doesn't like the thought that God's going to treat other people just as nice as He's treating you, because something inside of you thinks you deserve it more.

Are you envious because God is generous? See there's two flip-sides to this; heaven is beautiful, and here's why. Here's one of the things about heaven that's so beautiful:

Heaven delivers me from the notion that I have to outdo Mother Theresa to make it.

Right? Like heaven, the environment Jesus describes of heaven is: it frees me from the notion, that I have to outdo Mother Therese to make it; but it also forces me to give grace to people who haven't done as much as me.

If you get your worth by looking left and right, you're going to always find that there's someone who's done more than you, and that there's someone who's done less than you.

Jesus says: that's not heaven. In heaven, heaven is an environment where everybody realises they're not worthy, and they get all their worth from the one in the centre.

I realised - this part of heaven is not established in my heart. I still was on a hierarchy, so are you envious because God's generous?



Are You Worthy (2 of 2) (Shane Willard)  

Sat 16 Mar 2013 PM « Back to Top

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Grace, by definition, isn't fair. Heaven consumes in flames any ideas of rank. To avoid the flames of heaven, we have to die to the idea that God must be fair. If heaven invaded your life today, who would you have to accept, that you now see as unacceptable? Jesus described heaven as tormenting to those who don't forgive. Jesus is at the centre, and everybody's equidistant around Him, because no one was worthy to begin with. There's always someone that's done less than me, but Heaven includes us all in a circle.

Heaven is not created by the exclusion of imperfect people, but by the inclusion of imperfect people - by grace cleaning them up, purifying them with the flames of heaven. If heaven invaded our life today, we would be overwhelmed with how much it's not about us, and not care where we ranked; we would simply be overwhelmed with God's presence. Why not let that part of heaven be established in you right now?

Are You Worthy (2 of 2)

I want to give you stuff that is much more deeper food-for-thought okay? On the way out today, if you'll stop by the table, you can get this full discussion in my series: The Flames of Heaven. You can also - the follow up to this is in my series called Winning at Life, where I talk about how to develop a sense of worth. Once again all that goes to our main mission in the world, which is to take care of the poor, so just check all that stuff out.

Alright, so let's ask ourselves these questions: Are you envious because God is generous? If you have a problem with God giving someone the same wage as you, even though you don't think they deserve it as much as you, then there's two options: 1) you don't believe God can do what He wants to do; or 2) you have an envy problem. Who was the famous fellow, he said that all atrocities in the world are birthed out of human envy? Or you have an envy problem.

Let's ask it a few ways: if you hear someone talk about the generosity of God - do you get angry? Would you rather hear a message on God judging people? Of course any message I've ever heard on judgement includes the imagery of a white guy with a black robe and a white wig - not a farmer with pruning shears, so what is that? If you hear someone talk about the generosity of God - do you get angry? To avoid the flames of heaven, we have to die to the idea that God must be fair. Grace, by definition, isn't fair. Let's say it this way: heaven consumes in flames any ideas of rank. Heaven consumes in flames any idea around rank.

We're going to get to that in a second okay, but let me just ask you simply this question: how much money, energy, resources, and time have you spent trying to be 'er? Richer, smarter, thinner, faster? How much time, energy, resources have you spent trying to keep up, trying to rank better? Is the motive of your Christian service to rank better in heaven? You know what we used to be taught, is that in heaven, God pays people different; and we're going to talk about that tomorrow by the way. I'm going to handle the other side of this, about what you bury and what you use, and how it's important to do that.

I'm not talking about method - you should be doing things to establish the kingdom; but if the motive of your heart is for God to like you better, now you're entering into witchcraft, this subtle sort of thing. Heaven consumes rank, it frees you. Do you know that last year, Europeans spent $11 billion on cosmetics? $11 billion trying to be prettier - did it work? Do you feel better about yourself? Of the $11 billion, $3 billion were spent by men - what are you doing? That surely isn't working! There are now whole sections in department stores for men's cosmetics. What is wrong with us? You know $11 billion would put clean water and sewer in the whole world? What are we doing? What are we doing? Are you trying to rank better? Heaven, if heaven invaded your life tomorrow, it wouldn't matter how well you rank. You would just be overwhelmed with God's presence - but there's something about no one being worthy, and all of a sudden you're consumed with the presence of this ultra loving God who lets you in anyway. It doesn't matter who's righter, it just matters that you're there.

Can you imagine standing around Jesus in heaven and someone having the gall to go hey this is all great and all but I can't wait to ask Him who was right and who was wrong between me and you? [Laughter] No, it just won't matter - which leads me to this question. Is there any place in your life where you've lost the privilege of being overwhelmed with God's presence at the expense of being right? Is there anywhere in your life that you've lost the privilege of being overwhelmed with God at the altar of [unclear 00.04.55]? Let me ask it this way. Would you rather see someone healed or would you rather understand healing? I'd rather see someone healed, I don't really care how He does it really. Remember there was this story in Luke, Chapter 9, where the disciples say Jesus, we saw a man casting devils out of people and we tried to stop him because he wasn't doing like we do. Now hang on a second, in my experience the less devils the better right? So if you're getting devils out of people do whatever you want to do, I mean that's fantastic. That's fantastic.

Would you rather see someone delivered of a devil; or would you rather understand all the ways that deliverance works? Would you rather see deliverance, or would you rather understand it? Both would be nice, but you'd rather see it. Sometimes we lose our privilege of being overwhelmed, because we have to figure it all out. A great example of this, is a great magician. I was in Las Vegas, and I went and saw Penn and Teller. Penn and Teller are ridiculous! Here was their first trick. This is how they warmed the crowd up okay. I just thought it was icebreaker for the crowd. They come out on the stage, they throw ping pong balls into the thing. Obviously one is marked. Somebody gets the marked ping pong ball, some random person. They said: sir, do you have a cell phone? Yes, I do. Would you come up? Have you ever met us before? No. So you testify to all these people you've never met us before? Yes, absolutely. Alright, so you have a cell phone? Yes, I do. Can we see it? Yes. Alright, put it back in your pocket.

Then what they do is, they talk to him, and in the course of talking to him, they pick his pocket; and I thought that was the whole thing, because people were still walking in. I just thought it was like, we're having a laugh at this guy's expense, and they're doing it in a hilarious way right - like they are making a fool of this guy in just a hilarious way. Like it's less than a minute. Forty seconds later, they say: where's your phone? He said: oh, and so he can't find his phone, and so they say your whole job in life was to bring your phone, and you've lost your phone right? Of course he's going: well I - and so I thought that was the whole joke. I thought that was the whole thing. They said: my goodness, do you have a friend? Yes, I have a friend. Where's your friend? Sir, would you - do you have a phone? Yes. Would you call the guy please? Yes. So the guy picks up his phone, rings the guy's number. A box underneath a seat in the 25th row starts ringing. They say: oh, there's a box ringing, bring it up here, because they're not going to go get it, so they pass the box up. So everyone in the audience handles this box, so you could see it's a real box right.

They handle it all the way up. It's a Styrofoam box that's taped shut. They take a camera, and put it on the box, and put it on the big screen. They take a knife and cut open the box. Inside that box was a block of ice, with a fish frozen solid inside the block of ice. They took a hammer and broke the ice. They had the guy call the phone again, the fish was ringing. They took a knife, they cut the head off the fish, and pulled the guy's phone out of the frozen fish. All this took place in two minutes - so I sat there and went YEAH! That's awesome! But there were people around me, who lost the privilege of being overwhelmed at a skill very well-practised, because they had to know how that happened. How did that happen? Who cares how that happened, that was - did you see - that was brilliant. That was unbelievable! That was awesome!

And Penn Jillette is the most vocal about: there's no such thing as spiritual power; like he says: anybody in Vegas claiming to have true spiritual power is a criminal.He said: these are well-contrived, well-practiced illusions, that we have practiced hours and hours and hours on, over 38 years, so we don't get caught. If we showed you how we did it, you wouldn't be that amazed. The amazing part is not how we did it; it's that we don't get caught doing it.

So I thought yeah, yes; but there were people around me who kept saying: how did they do that fish thing? I'm like, I don't know how they did the fish thing, but I'm not going to lose my privilege of being overwhelmed with what they just did, at the expense of needing to know how they did it. And all night long they did stuff like that; and the people around me were like: how did they do that? I'm like who cares! Did you see? That's amazing! I think we need to be more like that with God. We see someone delivered of demons, and instead of having a theological discussion on how that happened, why can't we just go: oh, thank God they're delivered of seven demons! That is awesome!

You see someone healed miraculously, and instead of sitting around having theological discussions on how did that happen; why can't we just go: that guy was sick, and now he's made whole - that's amazing! That's amazing! Have we ever lost our privilege of being overwhelmed with God, at the expense of having to be right, and figure it all out? If He's God - anybody know what the second commandment is? The second commandment, what is it? Go ahead. Don't have idols. Is that all it says? No. It does say: don't bow down to idols, very good; but it also says: and don't make any image of Me. In other words: don't bow down to them, and don't make any image of Me. Essentially, the way the rabbis teach it is this: if you can think it up, it's not God. If you can conceive it, it's not God - it's not.

If I drew a circle on the whiteboard, and that circle represented everything that can be known about God, and I handed you a pen and I said: what percentage of the circle do you know, how much would it be? A dot? Right, can I get an amen on that? So how is it possible, that a group of people who would readily admit that all we know is a dot, would get adamant about anything? You've just admitted, all you know is a dot, and you're adamant? About what, your dot? God's infinitely bigger than your concept of Him, and if we ever lose the privilege of being overwhelmed with what He is, at the expense of being right about who He is, then that is bad - that's flames of heaven stuff - it's worthiness.

Let's ask a couple more practical questions, here we go. Are you at risk of walking out of heaven, because those people can't be there? Is there anybody, if you saw them in heaven, you would be convinced you were in hell, and you would walk away? I could tell you, when my granddad got to heaven, and saw black people at the table - he struggled. He probably thought he was in hell! He probably thought: the preacher was a liar man, he told me I'd avoid places like this. In my granddad's concept of hell and heaven - heaven's full of white people. There's like a white people section. Let's ask it this way: if heaven invaded your life today, who would you have to accept, that you now see as unacceptable? Maybe there's someone in the church that you just always have problems with, and Jesus is inviting you to go ahead and accept him now, flaws and all, because heaven - they're going to be there. You're going to have to eat a meal with them at some point, so why not now? If you're going to have to do it some day, why not now?

Here's one of John's revelations in heaven, and don't forget Domitian when I read this okay? Don't forget all that stuff I did on Domitian. Surrounding the throne were 4 and 20 other thrones, and seated on them were 4 and 20 elders. They were dressed in white, and had crows of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumbles and peals of thunder. And in front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing (a menorah). In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing - these are the seven spirits of God. Remember what the seven spirits of God are? Wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, fear of the Lord - it's the menorah. The middle candle is the servant. No anointing lights, without the heart of a servant. Wisdom, and the anointings of God, have to be tempered: wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, fear of the Lord. If you have wisdom without the fear of the Lord - you're a jerk. If you have knowledge without understanding - you're useless. If you have power without counsel - you're mean. They're tempered with the heart of a servant; and also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. So in this vision of heaven, where is Jesus? He's in the centre, and everyone is sitting around Him. So then we can say it this way, that heaven challenges this notion of God: that Jesus is at the top of a pyramid, and everyone's fighting to rank the best, so that they get the closest to Him.

Heaven challenges this notion of God. Embrace this notion of God: that Jesus is at the centre, and everybody's equidistant around Him, because no one was worthy to begin with. Heaven forces us to start with the starting point that says: no one's worthy anyway, and so if I think I'm more worthy than you, I'm just simply comparing levels of unworthiness, and that's just silly. Heaven is so full of grace, that a bunch of unworthy people - see in Jesus' notion of heaven, heaven is not created by the exclusion of imperfect people. Heaven is created by the inclusion of imperfect people and by grace cleaning them up and purifying them with the flames of heaven. The flames of heaven is not judgement, not in the way we see it. The flames of heaven is grace. The flames of heaven is pruning. The flames of heaven is God's relentless pursuit, to make you the best you can be in God's kingdom, without taking your free will away.

Maybe we could say it this way. Look at this, Mark, Chapter 10. It says: then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. Teacher, they said, we want You to do for us whatever we ask - which is a very loaded question - it's like they were 10 years old. What do you want Me to do for you, He asked, and they replied: let one of us sit at Your right, and the other sit at Your left. In other words, in their concept, they were still struggling with the fact that God wasn't at the top of the heap, to get there. They were struggling with that thought. Now where in human history do you see this concept of government? Everywhere; Caesars. You wanted to get the closest to them, because the closest to them had the power. They knew Jesus was going to establish a kingdom; where? In heaven? No. On the earth; and they say: if you take over Rome, can we be the guys sitting closest to You? Jesus is like: no, no, no, that's not what My kingdom looks like. My kingdom looks like this, and you're just going to have to deal with that. We're going to do away with rank - and if you're honest, all attempts in your life to rank better have caused you pain anyway. Why not do away with it? What are you trying to do? You want to keep the pressure of being prettier, thinner, smarter, richer? You want to keep all that? No, let's do away with that.

See, heaven delivers me from the notion that I have to outdo anyone, to be okay with God, but it also makes me treat someone who hasn't outdone me with grace because there's always somebody that's done more than me. There's always someone that's done less than me. Heaven includes us all in a circle. They replied: let one of us sit at Your right, and the other at Your left, in Your glory. Have you ever had someone ask you a question, and then make it about something that it wasn't? What about this question has anything to do with the glory of God? Nothing, this is about the glory of James and John. You don't know what you're asking! Can you drink of the cup I drink, or be baptised with the baptism I'm baptised with? I love the fact that Jesus' disciples, who walked and talked with Him - they struggled with this too. It makes me feel a little better. As a matter of fact, particularly Peter and John, they had this competition going, as to who could expose the other ones faults better. I'll give you an example.

Who cut off the servant of the high priest's ear, when they came to arrest Jesus? Who did that? How do you know that? Matthew, Mark and Luke say a certain companion of Jesus - John. Matthew, Mark and Luke say: oh, one of Jesus' friends cut off the servant of the high priest's ear; John's like: it was Peter man! Throw that mug under the bus. It was Peter - and then if you think about it, in John 21, John throws in this stab at Peter that's very subtle. It says: so Jesus cooked Peter breakfast over a fire of burning coals. When was the last time Peter stood over a fire of burning coals? When he denied him, so at Peter's restoration, John subtly recreates the denial - like John's grrr.

Maybe we could ask ourselves a few questions: if heaven invaded our life today, we would be overwhelmed with how much it's not about us. Is there any place we're sitting in the wrong chair? Is there any place you're sitting in the centre? Is there any place you're obsessed with how well you rank? How much energy do we spend trying to rank properly? How much energy do we spend trying to rank properly? We ask ourselves: am I thin enough, smart enough, tall enough, rich enough, fast enough, social enough? Do I own enough? How much energy do we spend comparing rank? How much energy do we spend trying to be richer, smarter, skinnier, happier, hipper, prettier, taller, shorter, thinner, bigger, important-er, talented-er? Are we stuck in the land of 'er? Heaven delivers us from that. Heaven delivers - the problem with 'er, is that there's always an 'est. There's always someone who has more. You'll never get to the end, ever. Heaven delivers us from that.

How does this notion translate into how we see God? If heaven invaded us today, we would not care where we ranked; we would be overwhelmed with God's presence. And Jesus' calling is to allow heaven to be established where? In you, right now. So if you were in heaven you wouldn't care how you rank, you'd be overwhelmed with God's presence. Why aren't we just being overwhelmed with God's presence, and ceasing to care with how we rank today? What's stopping us? Why not let that part of heaven be established in you right now? What has it done for you lately anyway? It causes a lot of strife and division, and agony and arguing.

16,900 children are going to die today of starvation, and Christians are arguing about verses. What!

How about this: how easily are we offended? Jesus described heaven as: tormenting to those who don't forgive. That makes a lot of sense. If you're forced to eat at the same table, and watch someone get the same wage you did, and you won't forgive them - that's going to be tormenting. Oh by the way, the word translated torment there, is the word basanizo. It just simply means "to test the purity of something". It's a touchstone - if you were selling me gold in the First Century, and I wasn't sure if you were being honest, then I would take the gold, and I would rub it against a touchstone to see if it was pure. So when the word - I don't know where they got torment from. It just simply means: they'll be purified - they'll be rubbed up against the touchstone, until they come up pure. In other words: there's things, until you deal with it, it's going to keep coming back on you. That's so true, so true.

Five, where have we abandoned the dignity of others, in the central nature of the throne, in the name of ego? Where's Jesus not in the centre? Where's Jesus not in the centre? Maybe we could say it this way: if heaven invaded our lives, we would not be impressed with any of our righteousness - no one would be worthy. We would simply be overwhelmed with God.

We're talking about discipleship today - as a disciple of Jesus Christ, your biggest calling and opportunity is to allow heaven to be established in you right now. In heaven, you will not care who was righter; you will only care about being overwhelmed with the presence of God. My invitation to you today, is to allow that to be true now. Why not? Jesus' invitation was allow heaven to be established in you now. If that's the way it's going to be in heaven, why not make it true now, and let this world reflect what heaven is? Can I get an amen on that?



Be the Salt and Light (Shane Willard)  

Sun 17 Mar 2013 AM « Back to Top

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There are 6 mentions of fire in hell, but 229 mentions of fire in heaven! If you walked into heaven tomorrow, what parts of you would be burned up? 15 of 18 of Jesus mentions of hell, was about us, here, now. It's about: what are you bringing to the earth? How's your lust problem? How's your anger problem? Do you call people fools? How is fear of man instead of fear of God? What are you bringing to the earth?

Be the Salt and Light

Revelation 21:1, this is the end of the Bible. It always helps, if you want to get a good picture as to what the whole book is about, it always helps to read the beginning and the end, so here's the end.

This is what it says: And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And the sea no longer is. The sea, in ancient Jewish literature, is a euphemism for unbelief; so essentially its saying: finally everybody's on the same page. Nobody's sitting around arguing about who's right and who's wrong. This is finally, finally everybody's come together here, the sea no longer is. And I, John, saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.

So at the end of the Bible, who's going up to heaven? No one, no one! I get so concerned with everybody, we just can't wait to get to heaven, we just can't wait to get there, and the idea is we're going up; oh we can't wait to go up! God's idea is: He's coming down; and I'm scared that people are going to pass in the middle you know?

Let me be very clear about this okay? I'm going to say this very slow, because I want to be very clear. When Jesus talked about heaven, He talked about heaven as a present reality, as well as a future reality. Let's say it this way; heaven is true here, and it is occupied with people. Heaven is true there, and it is occupied with people.

Hell, when Jesus talked about hell, Jesus only said the word hell 18 times; 15 of the 18 was talking about hell being a present reality today, three of the 18 was about hell being a future reality later, okay? So let's be clear about this: Heaven is true here, and it is occupied. Heaven is true there, and it is occupied. Hell is true here, and it is most certainly occupied. Hell is true there, and it is occupied as well; but the primary emphasis of Jesus' teachings was not how to go to heaven someday. His teachings were primary the emphasis was: hey, how can we take whatever's in heaven, and bring it right here to the earth?

The issue is, why would you wait to go to heaven, when there is a clear opportunity to allow heaven to be established right here, now, today? The end of the story is that heaven is coming down, and God is going to be people's God, and they will be His people. Everyone's going to be on the same page, and we hold to that blessed hope. In Revelation 21, the picture you get is: everything in heaven is coming to the earth.

Here's my question. If that happened tomorrow, would you be okay? Do reckon you'd like heaven? Be very careful before you answer that; before you answer that, at least go back and read everything Jesus said about heaven, and ask yourself: would you enjoy it?

Like for instance, Jesus said that: in heaven, all the secret conversations of your heart will be revealed for all to see. Ho ho! You want to go there? So if, right now you're thinking: what an idiot, it would be on a billboard over your head! So if your lifestyle is dodgy, and manipulative, and secretive, you're going to find heaven very challenging.

What if you're a racist? What if you know a racist, because there wouldn't be any racism in New Zealand right? So what if you know a racist, and let's say this racist has two minutes to live, and he's in the hospital; and so we send a white person to go lead him to the Lord right, because you can't send Sargin for goodness sake, the guy's a racist right? So as Sargin walks in he's like: get OUT! You know, so we send Mike or myself or Ian, we're all the right colour you know.

So we walk in there, we say look, you've got two minutes to live mate, seriously. I urge you please, I urge you to sort things out with Jesus, right now; and the racist goes: I think you're right, will you please help me? Please help me. This guy with all sincerity prays some sort of prayer, which says something like: Lord Jesus, I have stuffed my life up. Please be the Lord of my life for the rest of it, all 20 seconds, right?

And so he looks at you, and he's never been to church, he doesn't know anything about the Bible, he doesn't know anything. He says: I've only got 20 seconds to live, why - what does that even matter? Why did I do that? And you've got one sentence - you can't open your Bible, he's dying in 10 seconds. You've got one sentence so you say: umm, aah, ah you did that, because when you die here in a few seconds, you're going to wake up in heaven, instead of hell. The guy goes: that is fantastic! Four seconds later, he dies. Where does he wake up? Heaven, right? I'm not trying to trick you! People: I don't know, I don't know. Where does the guy wake up? [Heaven.] Heaven!

So this racist wakes up at a table with every tribe, tongue and race. Is he in heaven, or hell? To the racist, heaven IS hell. The question isn't so much: will you go to heaven when you die? What if a better question is: if heaven invaded your life tomorrow, what parts of you would survive, and what parts of you would be burned up?

Why would you wait - if Christianity ever became a group of people who were waiting to go to heaven one day, they would be horrible, elitist, societal, tribal people, who thought they were better than everybody else. Aren't you glad we escaped that!

Christianity was never called to be a group of people who got as many people as possible into heaven. Rather, they were called to be a group of people who partnered with God, to establish the kingdom right here on the earth.

None of Jesus' followers ever took Him that way. You never see Jesus showing up, and people going: oh great, you're here! We get to go to heaven now! No.

Jesus died, and rose from the dead. You've got to admit that's pretty impressive, considering He called His shots, right? He dies, rises from the dead. He comes back from the dead, and how much does He talk about heaven? None! How much does He talk about hell? None! I find that amazing. What I find more amazing, is that no one asked Him!

If I died today, and you came to my funeral on Wednesday, and then I showed up here next Sunday, and ruined your service and they gave me a mic. They said: Shane is back from the dead! We need to ask questions. How many questions would we get through, before someone said: hey, what actually happens? Of course it would be like, the first question right? But no one asked Him!

No one asked Him: Jesus, You're back from the dead - that's amazing - what was heaven like? What was hell like? I heard you preached there - how was your altar call, did you clean out heaven? You know, when you rose from the dead, it says: tombs everywhere emptied. Was that your altar call? Are You going to write a book called 'Three Days in Hell', and make a billion dollars, because people are scared of it? That would be amazing!

No one even asked Him! Jesus comes back from the dead, and here's His follower's response: oh great, You're back! Are we going to take over Rome now? Why would they? Why would they think that? Because that was His message all along, that we are going to establish the kingdom right here on the earth; and in their mind, to establish the kingdom on the earth, we're going to take over Rome? They were misguided, because that wasn't God's goal.

God's goal was to establish His kingdom through a body of Christ; not through taking up of arms, but through a body of Christ, who would duplicate God throughout the world, by establishing heaven right here; never to be a group of people waiting to go to heaven someday.

Although we hold to the hope that heaven is true someday, and it absolutely is, that is not the main goal of Christianity. Your goal is not to get to heaven someday, your goal is to reach into heaven, and bring everything in heaven right down here! That's what it means to be a disciple. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be actively participating in establishing heaven on the earth.

So I went through, and I looked at everything Jesus said about heaven. I found it so challenging. Let's talk through some of these things. When we think of images of judgement, which by the way, the word judgement - the word translated judgement in the New Testament is the word colossus, which means to prune an apple tree.

If there are apple farmers here, they could tell you that half way through season, there's a lot of little apples; and so you have to go around, and you've got to knock off a lot of the little apples, so that the nutrients of the tree will go to the rest, so it makes big apples. It's that - its cutting excess off. It's cutting what's not going to bear fruit off, so that things that do bear fruit have the nutrients to do it, okay?

So the word judgement in the Bible, is not a guy wearing a black robe, with a white wig and a hammer. It's more a farmer with pruning shears. Think about how Jesus taught about judgement. He said: I'm the vine dresser, you're the vine. Whatever parts of you are not bearing good fruit, I'm going to cut it off, because it's not helping you. It's called pruning; so when Jesus said things like: judge yourself here, so you will not be judged there; essentially it is pruning. Whatever's on your life that can't exist in God's kingdom, go ahead and get it off of you now! Why would you wait? Don't do that. It's ruing your life.

He said it this way, in one place: it's better to throw yourself on a stone, than to have a stone hurled upon you; which essentially is a First Century parental euphemism. It just means this. Boy, you sort this out, or I'm going to sort this out; and you would much rather sort this out yourself - it's that.

So here's my question: If you walked into heaven tomorrow, what parts of you would survive, and what parts of you would be burned up? That is a better question.

The problem with having hell, fire, and brimstone being our issues and judgement, is that those words tend to, always in our mind, be about other people. When we talk about hell, we talk about ‘them’ and ‘then’, but that's only three of Jesus' mentions of hell.

15 of 18 mentions of hell, was about us, now. It's about: what are you bringing to the earth? How's your lust problem? How's your anger problem? Do you call people fools? How is fear of man instead of fear of God? It's not so much about them then; it's more about us today, what are you bringing to the earth now?

The problem with that, is that in the Bible there are 6 mentions of fire in hell - six! Six times it talks about fire in hell. There are 229 mentions of fire in heaven - 6 mentions of fire in hell versus 229 mentions of fire in heaven. Aaargh! How many sermons in your life have you ever heard on fire in hell? Lots. How many of you heard of fire in heaven? None. How did that happen?

229 mentions of fire in heaven, 6 mentions of fire in hell; so actually if your goal in eternity is to avoid fire, hell might be your better choice. Hell will let you stay a racist, heaven will not. Heaven will not. Lots of fire in heaven.

Now because we're westerners, I have to say this, because white people tend to take things very literally; and so: God is not setting people on fire. As a matter of fact there are several commands in the Bible where He commands people never to set people on fire, so it's like a pretty good idea, right? God is against setting people on fire alright? I know that comes as like a shock, but it's all over Leviticus, Deuteronomy, it's all over the Prophets, that you should not set people on fire right, it's a pretty good idea. These are metaphors!

The word translated 'fire' is 'pure', all forms of the word purity come from that word. They translate it fire, because in their world they used fire to purify things; so one rabbi said it this way: that the fire of heaven is God's relentless pursuit, to make you the best you can be in His kingdom, without taking your free will away.

God is relentlessly going to purify us. That is the deal. Now let's look at some questions then. Here's a question we want to ask ourselves today:

1) If the kingdom of heaven invaded your life today, what part of you would survive, and what parts of you would be burned up?

In other words, be brave enough to take note inside: is there anything on my life that could not exist, if heaven happened today? Whatever that is, go ahead and get it off your life. Why would you wait? It's hurting you! Why would you do that?

2) If you walked in heaven today, would you recognise it as heaven, or would you think it was hell? Is there any part of Jesus' descriptions of heaven that you go: oh, I hope not?

3) Are Jesus' descriptions of heaven congruent with your life? Where would your life struggle to live in that environment today?

4) What pruning needs to take place in our life now, so that the kingdom can be established in you today? Today, why would you wait?

Now let me just quickly read a couple of scriptures to you, which sort of exacerbate this. First Corinthians 3:11 says this: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw - I love that.

In other words, if your foundation is Jesus; whether you're rich, whether you're poor, it's all the same foundation.

That is great - their work will be shown for what it is, because that day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. Now is this talking about fire in hell, or fire in heaven? It's fire in heaven obviously.

If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; and yet will be saved, even though only as one escaping through the flames of heaven.

The idea is, it's an invitation from God, to do stock take of our life and say: if I walked into heaven tomorrow, what parts of me could thrive in God's kingdom, and what parts of me would have to be burned off? That's the flames of heaven.

How about this one: but who can stand in the day of His coming? Who could stand when He appears, for He will be like a refiner's fire, or launderers soap - once again a metaphor.

A fire, and a soap, are not the same thing, unless you're using it metaphorically. This is a cleaning agent. He will sit as the refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the Levites, and refine them with gold. Hang on, how do you purify silver and gold? Yeah, you heat it up.

How about this one: for the Lord, your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. How about Jeremiah 23:29: Is not My word like fire? Obviously a metaphor. Have you ever picked up your Bible and then when OW! That's hot! No, no. Come on, it's a metaphor.

It's saying that the word of God has a purifying agent in it. When you submit yourself to it, it purifies you; and like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces; in other words, there is something about the word of God that breaks us up, so we can be put back together more whole, more complete. These are metaphors.

Jeremiah also talks later about God finishing His people, like a potter does a clay pot. How do you finish a clay pot? You heat it up. You heat it up. There it is there, Jeremiah 18. It says: the word of the Lord came to me. He said: can I not do with you, Israel, as the potter does, like clay in the hands of a potter, so are you in My hands - once again a metaphor.

Here's another one, Isaiah 42: So He poured out on them His burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they didn't understand it - obviously a metaphor. If you set someone on fire, you're concern is hardly: do they get what you're saying? In other words, they didn't understand that God was trying to purify them. It's the flames of heaven.

Now as I was looking through all Jesus said about heaven, and being so challenged, this is one of the most challenging things I saw, and that is this. All when Jesus talked about heaven:

Everything that's buried will be unearthed. Now I want to unpackage this with you, and leave you with a big challenge. Revelation 22:12 - and behold, I'm coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each, according as his work is. Revelation 22, that's the end of the Bible.

Now let's go back to Matthew 25. Jesus is talking about heaven. He's closing out His ministry, and He's leading up to this incredible sermon about sheep and goats; and right and left; and people who are in, and people who are out. He defines it all by being defined as generosity, but this is part of the lead up to that. He's talking about heaven.

It says this: for it is as if a man was going abroad, and his servants he gave them his goods. To one he gave 5 talents, and to another 2, and to another 1, to each according to his own ability. And he went out abroad at once; and the one who received the 5 talents traded with them, and they made another 5 talents; and likewise he that received 2, also gained another 2. But he who'd received the 1 talent, went and dug in the earth and buried it, and hid his Lord's silver. And after a long time, the Lord of those servants came and took account with them; and he who'd received the 5 talents had come and brought another 5 talents, saying: Lord, you delivered us 5 talents to me. Behold, I've gained another 5 above them.

And he said to him: well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler now over many things. Enter the joy of the Lord.

So in this passage he's talking about how your faithfulness, with what you've been given on the earth, determines your role there.

It's not that everybody doesn't get the same wage, because earlier he said that in heaven, whether you started work at 6am or 5pm, you get the same wage.

There's a big difference between wage and reward; but in the beginning of the Bible it was in a garden, and even in perfection Adam had work to do, a job to do. At the end of the Bible it centres around a tree, and its imperfection, and we will have work to do.

I can't stand these images of heaven, that were actually invented in the late 1700s, of all of us wearing white robes, sitting on clouds, playing harps, and singing in perfect pitch to 1780s hymns. That sounds like hell to me, right?

When I was a kid, I asked my pastor: what's heaven going to be like? He said: heaven is like an eternal church service; and I thought: flip, that is horrible! Who would want that! How terrible is that?

Of course, people have the same image of heaven today. They picture a singing 'Jesus culture' in heaven, and of course if we got in a time machine, and went back to 1780 and said: look, this is actually the rock music we're going to be singing in heaven, those people would be like: OH NO! Like nooo.

This is about God establishing something, and our role in it, so essentially Jesus is saying: how you're living here is just going to continue. If you're faithful here, you're going to be faithful there; if you're not faithful here, chances are you're not automatically going to be faithful there; and so there's this correlation that's going on.

Let's keep going. And he who had got the two talents did the same, and he said to him: well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, now I'll make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of the Lord.

And he, who'd received the one talent, came and said: Lord, I knew that you were a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the earth. Now you have it back.

His lord answered him, and said to him: you evil and slothful servant - you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gathered where I didn't scatter. Then you should have at least put my money to the exchangers, and coming I would have received my own, with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has 10 talents; for to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will abound. But from him who has not, even that which he has, will be taken away from him.

Now that is Jesus' teaching on heaven - that's one of them. Are you okay with that? What if that happened tomorrow? Does that even sound like Jesus - to take from people who do not have; and give it to people who have more? Sounds like the exact opposite of what He spent His whole life giving Himself to. Why?

Because it's a metaphor! This isn't talking about money. This is talking about: in heaven, account will be taken for what you did with what you were given. If you were faithful with what you'd been given, then you'll be trusted with more things. But if you were not faithful, then whatever you were not faithful with, will be given to someone else.

Let me explain it this way. On the surface, it's just saying this: God's a good businessman. Let’s say I'm a contractor, and you're a subcontractor, and I give you eight jobs. So today I give you eight jobs, and at the end of the day I say: hey, how did the eight jobs go?

You say: well I got to six, I didn't get to two. Alright, so tomorrow I give you eight jobs, and at the end of the day you get to six, you don't get to two; what if I give you eight jobs on the third day, and you get to six and you don't get to two? Then on the fourth day I give you eight jobs, you get to six, you don't get to two? What if on the fifth day I give you eight jobs, you do six, you don't get to two?

How long is it going to take me to start giving you six jobs, and then taking the two you're not getting to, and giving them to someone who actually has the capacity to do it?

Jesus says: heaven's like that - that God's going to establish His kingdom, whether you like it or not; and if you're not going to participate in it, then the grace that He gave you to accomplish, He's just going to give it to someone who will accomplish it, because God's kingdom is going to be established.

Now let’s make a couple of observations: 1) the one who buried his talent has a skewed view of the master.

The view that God is a hard and vengeful God only holds us back. Who really wants to work for a crazy maniac, who you don't know whether you're coming or going, you don't know if he's going to like you today or yesterday? Who really wants to do that? It only holds you back. So many people don't try anything with God, because they're so afraid of God, that they're scared of giving it a go. That is dreadful.

The question is this: are we using what God gave us to bring heaven to earth; or are we burying our talent?

Maybe we can say it this way: if heaven invaded your life today, you would find out if you used what God gave you for the common good; or if you buried it.

What have you done with your talent? Have any of you ever been at work, and one of your co-workers says: how could your God be real, with all the suffering in the world? Anybody ever heard that argument, like: how could your God be real? There's all this suffering. Is your God not powerful enough to do something? Your God's a failure. Even if your God is God, He's a failure.

Has anybody ever heard that, and you're sort of like: man, don't talk about my God like that, right? Like you're all just jacked up and - right? But then you walk away, and you're like well: man, that makes sense actually, he's got a point. Have you ever thought like that? You want an answer to that? Okay, here's the answer. The answer is actually not in the Bible. The answer is in Forbes Magazine. Let me explain.

In October Forbes Magazine, every October they put out a celebration of the 400 richest people in the world. It's called the Forbes 400 okay? The 400 richest people in the world combined have $1.27 trillion dollars. 400 people, have $1.27 trillion dollars. Roughly the same numbers of people in this room right now, have $1.27 trillion dollars.

Let me tell you how much money that is. That's enough money to put clean water and sewerage in the whole world; that's enough money to vaccinate the whole world against disease. That's enough money to set up perpetual education for the whole world; and enough money to start the perpetual production of food to end world hunger; and still leave them all billionaires! And God's the failure? Really?

Or it's enough money to run the US Government for five days! I can't believe how much people trust their government to take care of them. It never works. Even with Joseph, Joseph was a righteous man, and when he tried to set up the government to take care of the Egyptians, by Genesis 47 it says, that he reduced the entirety of Egypt to slavery; because he took their grain and stored it up, and then instead of giving it back, he sold it back. It has a price!

Your healthcare's not free! I'm telling you, I don't know about your government. Everything the US Government touches goes broke. It took over the Post Office, it's broke. They took over Amtrak, which is our train system, it's broke.

They took over the Mustang Ranch. The Mustang Ranch was a brothel on I40 in New Mexico, halfway between Dallas and LA, which was meant to provide prostitutes and liquor for truck drivers in the desert.

They got done-in for tax evasion, and the government looked at it and said: they're making millions. We're not going to shut it down, we're going to take it over to provide revenue for the government. They took over the Mustang Ranch, and it went broke. When you can't give away prostitutes and liquor to truck drivers in the desert, your business plan sucks! And God's the failure?

Let me ask you this: has God withheld the resource necessary to fix the world? It's within the power of 400 people to put a huge dent in it, a huge dent. You mean to tell me there's not a lot of government waste in New Zealand? Really? And God's the failure? No, someone buried something, that's the problem.

When I tell you stories like that, if I say: there's 400 people that have $1.27 trillion dollars, what is your immediate gut response? It's like flip, they should do something, right! Are you right? Yes? Are you wrong? Yes? It's none of your business what they do!

Here's my question: if 400 people could accomplish that, what could the top 400,000 do? What could the top 4 million do? What could the top 400 million do?

If you drove a car here today, I don't care what kind of car it is, you're in the richest 700 million people in the world. What are you doing about it? What would happen if all of these people pooled their resources; they said: we are going to unbury our talent, and use it for something? God is calling us to establish heaven on the earth, and part of doing that is being willing to unbury our talent.

According to the World Health Organisation, 16,900 children are going to die today of starvation - today! They're going to die today. There's another 16,900 that are starting to feel the final hunger pangs, and fixing to die tomorrow. And that's true the next day, and the next, and the next. 16,900 children are going to die today; what does your refrigerator look like? Could you not feed one?

Considering the New Zealand dollar is very powerful over the Chinese Yuan, or the South African rand, or - do you know what one New Zealand dollar can do when you send it overseas? Somebody buried something, and I think that someone is us.

Why couldn't, just because of this room, why couldn't that figure be 16,500 children by next year? I mean there's, I don't know, if you count everybody in the building there's probably 400 or 500 people here. Why can't we feed one a piece? What are we doing? Somebody buried something.

I was down in a place called Gore right, Gore! What a great name for a town; where do you live? I live in Gore. From my understanding - you guys live here, but my understanding, Gore is the richest city in New Zealand per capita; so per capita, they're the richest people in the whole place. The problem is it's the town next door to Gore, which I can't think of, is the poorest; so in New Zealand you have this situation where the richest people are living next door to the poorest people.

There is a friend of mine down there, who has become one of my heroes. Her name is Pam Highsted, and she looked at one of my teachings, and she got moved in her heart. She said: you know this is not okay; so she started an after school program for underprivileged children in the town next door. She said: please, you were the inspiration for this. Would you come and speak to these kids, which I'm horrible at speaking to kids. I don't even know what to say. I look at them, and I like tell them Hebrew words. I don't know what to do, so I said: yes, I'll do it, right.

Now let me paint the picture for you. It was in July, and it was one degree, it was blowing rain sideways, so I don't even know where to go. So I'm looking for the room, and its blowing rain, and its freezing, and a seven year old comes running by with no shoes on. I said: I'm going to follow him right, because he obviously knew where the room was, so I sort of followed him.

Once we got in the room, I figured someone needed to be an adult, and I said: hey look buddy, it's freezing outside, and you need to put your shoes on. We don't want you to get sick; and he went: shoes? Who has shoes? I thought to myself: does he not have any shoes? So I asked Pam. I said: does he not have shoes because they choose not to wear them, or can his family really not afford shoes? She said: likely his family can't afford shoes; and it was at that moment she said: look around the room. I looked around at this room full of kids, and only half of them even had shoes on their feet. I thought: we're in New Zealand, flip! Somebody buried something. Somebody buried something, they absolutely did.

God's not the failure by the way - we are. God has entrusted all of us with a certain amount of talent. What are you using, that God gave you; or what have you buried?

Every year we hear stories of people freezing to death, homeless people; there's a homeless shelter in my home town, I went down there to see them, because they feed a lot of people.

I said: hey, how can I help? I said: I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll go around to restaurants, and I'll try to get them to donate more food. The guy went: NO! No, no. We don't need more food, and I thought: dude, you're homeless shelter, you're feeding people, you need more food. He said: no, no, no, we have more than enough food that comes in every day, because food will spoil, like we have more than enough food that comes in every day. What we need is more hands to feed the people.

Our limitation isn't food, our limitation is hands to feed it. So I said: you mean to tell me, that you have more than enough food; your problem is, you don't have enough people to serve the food to the people coming in? He said: yes, that's right.

I thought to myself: when you're serving lunch in the middle of the week, you mean to tell me there's not 12 people watching the end of The Price is Right, waiting for The Young and the Restless to start? Are you kidding me? Somebody buried something. You mean to tell me there's not 12 people choosing to watch TV, instead of feed someone who can't eat? Come on, somebody has buried something.

God is not the failure. We are the failure. You know what the leading cause of blindness in the world is? Dirty water! Kids drink the dirty water, their gut adjusts to the parasite, but the parasite in the dirty water causes cataracts over their eyes, and they're blind by four. There's a guy in Australia, he's an eye surgeon (Fred Hollows). He said: this is not okay. This is just not okay, and so he decided to give the rest of his life to restoring sight to blinded kids.

Do you know what it costs to restore sight to a blind kid? $30! Thirty bucks! Do you know what it costs to have cataract surgery in America? $15,000!

Somebody's burying something. Somebody's getting rich, and profiteering on people's health, and that is not okay. $30 will restore sight to a blind kid. Let me ask you this: what's the last thing you spent $30 on? How does it compare to the sight of a blind kid? Somebody buried something.

See, when we hear stories of burying, there's something inside of us - if you're not moved right now, I'm questioning whether you have a soul. 16,900 children are going to die today. If you have the ability to walk out and go: what are we eating for lunch; what is wrong with us! I mean go enjoy your lunch, but not at the expense of not helping someone else. That is not what we're called to be.

We're called to be Salt and Light, and establish the kingdom of heaven on the earth. When we hear stories of people who unbury their talent, it moves us.

One of my heroes is a girl named Kyla Alexander. Kyla is 39 years old, and she's given up her dream of being married and having a family, because she chose, she went to China. In China they have a one child policy, so that leaves a lot of problems when a child is born mentally handicapped; so she went to the Government Welfare Office...

These were not bad people at all. They were not. They were just understaffed, and you had 2 people looking after 40 mentally handicapped children, and they just couldn't do it. So for their own safety, there was children shackled to - like they had to leash them, to make sure they didn't run off. It wasn't that they were being mean, they just could not possibly keep up.

Kyla said: this is not okay, and she's given her life to restoring dignity to mentally handicapped children in China. I was just there, are you ready to get mad? Ready to get mad, here we go, I'm going to make you mad. It made me mad. I was just there, and I said: Kyla, what can I do for you? Anything within my power to do, I'm going to do it.

She said well, we've recently had to cut everything back, because we lost our biggest supporter. I said: what? She said: yeah, there was a church, they were our biggest supporter, and they cut us off. I went: oh, I'm sorry, you know, economic downturn, churches go through hard times, they have to make tough decisions. I'm sorry that happened. She said: no, that's not the reason. That wasn't the reason at all actually.

She said they sent a missions team here, and I told them that they could not force the children to say the sinner's prayer, because we were in Communist China; and so when they left, they cut our support off, because they said: what good is what you're doing anyway, if all of them are going to burn in hell. So that's our story? God is torturing mentally-handicapped children now? We're sticking by that?

I said: what's his name? What? What's the pastor's name? I haven't opened up a can on somebody in a very long time. I said: Kyla, that's not okay, and Shane Willard Ministries will do everything they can to make up the downfall, that you just suffered. We are not going to let these children suffer, because somebody else thinks that people are going to burn in hell, because they're too mentally handicapped to say a specific prayer.

He just summed up the whole problem with Christianity, right there in one sentence. No, it's not okay. We're going to help kids. You hear Kyla's story, you go YES! Go Kyla! Stick with it! Come on girl, you're doing a great job. Something inside of you does that.

There's a friend of mine in South Africa named Brandon Eckert. He's one of my heroes. Brandon was a 26 gang member, bad dudes, and he got saved. He came to the Lord listening to my message, the Authority of the Rabbi. Now there's a revival in Pollsmoor Prison, because he'd been allowed to take the DVD of the Authority of the Rabbi in there and show it to them, that the head of the 26s wrote me a letter. The guy, the head guy of the 26s wrote me a letter to say that he'd given his heart to the ways of Jesus.

It was really cool, because he started out: hi Mr Willard, my name is Bones. I was like: hi Bones; and so Bones, he said: I don't even know what it looks like to give my heart to Jesus as the head of a gang, but I'm willing to give it a go. He went and led his number two guy to the Lord, and so I got to meet him. His name was Colin, and so there's thing going on in Pollsmoor Prison.

So Brandon gets out, and Brandon says: this is not okay, this is not okay. I'm going to do something to change the cycle of poverty in my city. So he started a ministry that gets drug addicts and prostitutes and gang members off the street, and what he does is he gets them high school educated. First he gets them off drugs; second he gets them high school educated; third he gets them in job training, so he can break the cycle of poverty.

The last time I was in Cape Town, the District Attorney of Cape Town asked to meet with me - which made me nervous. Why is the District Attorney calling me to Court right? It's an odd feeling, so I go into Court, and this District Attorney says to me, she says: I just want you to know, because I know you're pouring in tens of thousands of dollars into this from America, and I want you to know that it is working.

He is now recognised by the South African Department of Justice as a viable option to Pollsmoor Prison, so that if people commit crimes, and we're going to send them to Pollsmoor Prison, instead of sending them to prison, they can have the option of going with him. If they complete his program, it counts as their prison time; but if they do not, they go to prison - so far 100 percent success rate!

When you hear that, don't you go: YES! Go Brandon! When people unbury their talent, it's so moving.

All of us know the famous ones like Heidi Baker, and taking care of orphans in Mozambique. You look at these stories, these incredible stories: Mother Theresa, what she did for lepers. This lady, she's going to shave her head for lepers. If a woman's willing to shave her head for lepers, give her $10 - flip! There are several hundred of us here. Why couldn't she raise $3,000 for lepers today? She's shaving her head, for lepers, and we're going to go: oh, well good you. I mean what! No! Come on. Unbury - you mean you'll miss $10? Come on, no!

We hear stories like this, and something in us goes: YES! And my question to you is: why not you? What does your refrigerator look like? What could you do? Where have you sat on your laurels; and the truth is, there are a lot of great people who don't do anything for anybody else, and it's not because they're not good people. It's because they don't intentionally set out to do it.

You're not going to wake up in the morning, and accidentally do this. You have to wake up in the morning with full intention to make someone else's life better.

Here's my question: whose life is better, in the last 30 days, because you were in it? If you can't think of anybody - and right now, if you're a narcissist, you're thinking: well my wife's life is better, because I'm in it! No, that's not what I'm talking about. She would likely disagree with that. I'm talking about outside of your family, outside of your four walls - whose life is better because you're in it?

All of us would know that Jesus honours this sort of behaviour, but how many of us are actually doing it; and it's not because we're bad people, it's because we think it's going to happen accidentally.

It will not happen accidentally. You have to, with intention and focus, unbury your talent. Bay City Outreach Centre is one of the greatest churches I go to in the whole world, and I've travelled the lot of it, okay. You have an incredible opportunity, but Bay City Outreach Centre cannot keep on existing, with people burying their talent.

There's so much talent in this room that God has given this place. God has entrusted this place to be a part of the redemption process of the whole city. What are you doing sitting on the fence? What are your options?

Well, I need - I can't miss NCIS. Are you kidding me? Get a DVR, watch it without commercials later. It's better that way anyway, plus it comes out in America first. Let me ruin it for you. Gibbs gets the bad guy! He's amazing!

Bay City Outreach Centre is going through transition as an organisation. Now, more than ever, it needs its people to stand up and unite, and unbury their talent, and say: let's go do what God asked us to do in this city!

Let's establish: may we never be people waiting to go to heaven someday; but may we be people determined to bring heaven to every place we see hell on this earth!

The quality of what you're living for is only determined by what you're willing to die for.

What does your life revolve around - temporary pleasure; or God's redemptive will for all of creation?

What's the last thing that made you angry enough to get your shovel out, and unbury your talent? Or maybe a better question would be: what's the last thing that just made you angry, period?

You know what I find, is that Kyla Alexander doesn't get angry over road works. I know, I know, that they're still fixing the same road. I know. I've been coming here seven years; they're still fixing the same exact road. Kingdoms have risen and fallen, Nigeria has changed empires seven times; New Zealand is still fixing the same flippin' road. I know, I know, it's so annoying. It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable.

You know what made me mad? I went to a grocery store the other day, and the cashier was really slow. Grrr, man. What makes you mad? You know, if I told Kyla that; Kyla would be like: so you have the luxury of living in a country where you can drive a motor vehicle to a store, that pre-packages food for you, and you still find a reason to be upset - over the slowness of the cashier? Ooh, I know, that must be so tough!

What makes you angry? Shane, you don't understand. My husband left his underwear on the floor for the 17,000th time. I know. You know that guy that you would expect to die for you, if an intruder came in, that guy? Yeah, must be tough. It must be tough living with someone who would die for you. I know. Shane, my wife falls asleep too early. I know. I know; that's annoying.

What makes you angry, and how does that compare to what God's doing in the world? Sometimes we just need some perspective.

What I find is that people with anger problems, they don't really have an anger problem. They have an energy problem. They're not giving enough of their energy away, so they have too much of it.

The cure for anger's not prayer. The cure for anger is giving your life away to something so much, that you don't have any energy to be angry about stupid stuff.

So you might be saying: well what could I do? What could I do? If you can't think of anything to do, go to FredHollowsFoundation.com, just Google them and give them $30, and at least give sight to one blind kid. By the way, I get no royalties from them, I just believe in them. On your way out today, you can purchase a set of CDs or a USB, and you can know that when my Director of Charity goes to China in a few months, that it's going to be given to mentally handicapped children in China. You can do something.

You could call your pastor this week, and go: hey, I've been sitting on the fence. I've been burying my talent. Where can I get involved in this place? What can I do to help you bring the kingdom of heaven to the earth right here in Hastings? What can I do? You could do that, but you have to set full intention of doing it. It's not going to happen by accident.

I've got a friend who left church; and I asked him: why did you leave church? They said: well, we're just tired of the church being so selfish and self-centred. I said: well I get that, but leaving's not going to fix it; but they left. You know what their life looks like today? They get up in the morning, they eat breakfast together. They each go to their different jobs, they come home, they have some sort of afternoon tea, they eat supper, they watch two episodes of Modern Family and one episode of NCIS, they go to bed. Then they wake up the next day and they repeat it. What a life.

So she left the church because it was selfish, but now her life has become what she hated in the first place. Is she a bad person? Absolutely not, she's one of the best people I know, but the truth of it is is that when you don't intentionally set forth to be salt and light in this world, it will not happen by accident.

In the kingdom - this is so important - it's not the summation of what I've done, like addition; it's the measure of what I've done, based on what I was given. How's your ratio look? How's your ratio?

Your reward in heaven is not determined by what you've done; it's determined on the ratio, of what you've done versus what you've been given. What's your ratio? What have you done with what you've been given?

When heaven hits earth, it will reveal whether your life was built on something that matters, or something that will be burned up. Do you have an intense sense now, that your life is about something bigger? If not, why not?

Listen, no matter what decision you make today, God loves you the same. It's not about God loving you. It's not about being forgiven. If your goal's to be forgiven, just, I don't know, go ahead and die, whatever, you're forgiven. But if your goal is to live the fullest life, and bring heaven to every place we see hell on this earth, then there is so much opportunity for us to unbury our talent. I'm urging you not to be people who just sit on the fence, and don't do anything at all.

I'm urging to be people who reach into your pockets, who look at your hands, who do something to unbury what God's given you, in order to make this world a better place. I'm asking you right now, to make a 30 day commitment to do that, once a day. It might be something small. It might be a quick encouraging email; it might be you go to Fred Hollows, give them $30; it might be buying something there. It might be finding an orphanage or you know of something; it might be helping this lady that's going to shave her head for leprosy. It might be something, but why not once a day, I'm not going to make it undoable.

All I'm asking you for, is a commitment for 30 straight days, to do one thing a day to make someone else's life better outside of your family, just one; just once a day, for 30 days. Once a day for 30 days; and I promise you, if you live 30 days like that, at the end of 30 days, you will not be able to imagine living any other way - so much good that can be done. You will find it will help your worry problem. You will find it will help your anger problem, you will find it will help your anxiety, it will help your grief. It will help the pain of whatever you've been through in the past.

When you give your life to something else, it solves all those other things. I'm urging you, and I'm challenging you, for the next 30 days. Thirty days, will you do something once a day, for someone else outside your family, just 30 days? After 30 days, ask yourself: do I want to do another 30? All I'm asking you for is 30 days, 30 days.

Now if you will do that, I want you to make a commitment before the Lord right now, simply by bearing witness and raising your hand, I will do this for the next 30 days. Okay, now I want you to look around - keep your hands up - look around. I want everybody to know that you're able to hold these - just have fun with it. Don't be judgemental, have fun. Just ask each other: hey, what did you do this week?

Maybe someone who knows what they're doing with Facebook- because I don't - maybe you could start a Facebook blog on Bay City Outreach thing called Salt and Light, or whatever you want to call it, and just have it there for people to put their stories: hey, I was here, and this is what happened. You won't believe what God did. Hey, I was here and this is what happened, you won't believe what I saw God do, and then when we start telling stories like that, it creates energy; and I promise you, I promise you, this is what God has called Bay City to be. Regardless of who's standing up here, this is what Bay City is: a group of people bringing heaven to every place they see hell on this earth. I urge you to be that. Let's pray together.

Lord, You're wonderful, we love You, and we honour You. Lord, forgive me for the places I've buried my talent. I want to be someone who uses what You've given me, to establish Your kingdom here. I'm going to pray a prayer with you, if you mean it. I'll tell you the prayer first, and then we'll pray it together. If you mean it, I want you to get in on it, and the prayer goes like this:

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to see things differently, and the irresistible urge to respond to what I see. So if you mean that, right now under your breath, say: Lord Jesus, give me the courage to see things differently, and the irresistible urge to respond to what I see. If you're here today, and you've never received what Jesus did for you before the foundation of the world, and you just want to get onboard, you want to start your journey with God, you could say something like this: Lord Jesus, I have no hope of saving myself, so I ask You to be the Lord of my life. I choose to trust Your version of my story, instead of my own. Thank You Lord. Amen.



http://mikeconnellministries.com

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