How to Change Your World – Part 2
October 21, 2001
Public School 279 in Brooklyn, New York has used the Internet to post some ways that their elementary students believe they could make the world a better place.
A student named C.J. says…I would make the world a better place by trying to make peace with all the countries
Joseph - I can make the world a better place by helping poor people.
Shannon - I would try to help people that commit crimes to become nice people.
Sammy - I would make the world a better place by planting more plants because they make the air cleaner.
Carlos - I could clean up parks and streets and I could recycle.
Nothing all that new or original, and yet each one has a vision of a different kind of world. Each one realizes he or she can have a part, be it ever so small, in making the world a better place.
As we age we tend to lose some of the idealism of grade school. We realize how big the world really is – and how small one we are by ourselves.
Sometimes we forget that God wants to use every follower of Jesus to make an impact on planet earth. So we begin to live out a smaller story than the one He has called us to. In His larger story, He calls us to be world-changers.
The process of becoming a world-changer for God isn’t the way of might or strength or power in the world’s conventional usage of those terms. It’s a process that begins, as we learned last week, with laying down our lives before God in an act of extreme surrender. God wants to take our lives and transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. And as we are transformed, the world will be changed.
But how does God want us to continually lay ourselves down before Him? Today we are going to talk about that in terms of “Extreme Privilege.”
Hebrews 4:14-16 points the way…READ TEXT
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Painted in broad strokes, there are some inevitable passages in the growth process where we move from simply focusing on our own needs to focusing on the extreme privilege of worshipping God.
TRANSITION: The first passage we could call…
I. RECKLESS LOVE
There must have been something special about Helen of Troy. Two kingdoms went to war over her; thousands of men gave up their lives so that one might have her. Hers was the “face that launched a thousand ships.”
Helen was the wife of Menelaus, King of Greece, in the ninth Century, B.C. Their kingdom was peaceful until the arrival of Paris, Prince of Troy. Paris fell in love with Helen, and depending on the version of the story you’ve heard, she fell in love with him. Under the cover of night, Paris stole away with Helen and took her back to Troy. It was the beginning of the Trojan War. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon assembled a might Greek army and set off in one thousand ships to attack Troy, all to win Helen back.
Few people have ever felt so pursued. In fact, many of us wonder if we’ve even been noticed. We live much of our lives wondering if someone will ever find us special and show interest in us. We tell ourselves, “No one has ever fought over me. No one has risked it all to sweep me off my feet. There is nothing special about me.”
And yet the Gospel says something entirely different. It says someone has been pursuing us all this time. When we listen to God’s version of the story, we find that we, too, were stolen from our True Love, and he launched the greatest campaign in the history of the world to get us back.
Brent Curtis and John Eldridge say it like this in their book, The Sacred Romance, “When we turned our back on him he promised to come for us. He sent personal messengers; he used beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts. After all else failed, he conceived the most daring of plans. Under the cover of night he stole into the enemy’s camp incognito, the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn. The Incarnation, as Phil(ip) Yancey reminds us, was a daring raid into enemy territory. The whole world lay under the power of the evil one and we were held in the dungeons of darkness. God risked it all to rescue us.” (p. 91)
Colossians 1 says, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…”(Colossians 1:13)
God had no guarantee we would love Him back. You want to talk reckless and risky…. Romans 5 says…
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7)
Essentially the Bible says God saw our wayward hearts, then looked at the cross, and said – “If that’s what it takes, then I’ll go there.” Hebrews 12 – “Jesus…for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.”
Michael W. Smith captures this action in the words of a new song…
“Crucified, laid behind a stone. He lived to die, rejected and alone. Like a rose, trampled on the ground, he took the fall, and thought of me, above all.” (“Above All,” Michael W. Smith)
Who, I ask you, has ever loved you with such selfless abandon? Where else have you ever heard of such fierce intention, such reckless ambition that shoves all conventions aside – willing literally to move heaven and earth?
During the Trojan War, Helen of Troy must have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that she mattered.
And after what God has done to win us back, how could we ever question our worth in his eyes? We matter too.
Through the years Billy Graham has consistently said, “From the cross, God shouts, ‘I love you!’ to the world.”
It is God’s love – his overwhelming goodness that compels us to leave sin behind and accept his offer of a new life through Jesus Christ.
That’s what is behind Hebrews 4:14 – Read
He saves us – he embraces us – we are immersed in his love – we become one with him. Caught up in what Rich Mullins described as “the wreckless raging fury that they call the love of God.” (Rich Mullins song, “The Love of God”)
TRANSITION: What an incredibly extreme privilege it is to be loved by God with such fearless and shameless intensity. But the passages of the growth process don’t simply end here. Second, God loves you recklessly to bring you to the place of…
II. UNPARALLELED INTIMACY
The Bible employs a wide range of metaphors to capture the many facets of our relationship with God. When considered ascending order, there is a breathtaking progression.
At base level, we are the clay and He is the Potter.
Moving up a notch, we are the sheep and He is the Shepherd. This is better than being a lump of clay, but still hardly flattering – sheep don’t exactly have a reputation for the being the most graceful and intelligent creatures in the world.
Moving upward, we are the servants and He is the Master. This at least gets us in the house, even if we do need to wipe our feet and watch our manners. Many Christians never get past this point, but it is beyond here that the metaphors make a swift ascent.
God also calls us his children and himself our Heavenly Father, bringing us into the possibility of real intimacy. Love isn’t something a vase and its craftsman share. A sheep only experiences kindness, but doesn’t know the depths of the shepherd’s heart. We are God’s children.
However, a little child is able to only have limited comprehension of the depths and dimensions of a parent’s heart. Friendship opens the door for deeper communion. And “friends” are what he calls us.
But there is still a higher and deeper level of intimacy with God awaiting us at the top of the metaphorical ascent. We are lovers. In Isaiah 62 God says, “I will take delight in you. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will I rejoice over you.” (v.5 paraphrase). And we say in return, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.”
Women may sometimes wonder, “Am I lovely? Do you want me?”
Men may ask, “Do I have what it takes? Am I adequate?”
We both want love, the adventure of intimacy, and this is the extreme privilege we are granted in God’s pursuit of us.
In the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus uses the language of a Honeymoon to describe our relationship with God. He says, “When you pray, go into your room and close the door.” He says it is a secret activity.
Kim and I celebrated our 4th Anniversary this past week. After dinner Friday night we sat down and watched our wedding video. It was fun to relive the ceremony and the reception. Each night I am reminded of another significant event that occurred on that day 4 years ago. It was the day Kim and I began sharing the same bed. That day was the start of a lifetime of intimacy. After the wedding, we drove to our hotel, went into the room and closed the door.
God has recklessly pursued us with abandon to win our hearts. Many of us have willingly said, “God, I accept your love. At our baptism, we made a vow of commitment and said, “I do.”
And then, after this absolutely torrid love affair, after all God has done to recklessly woo us and win our hearts, instead of enjoying an intimate honeymoon alone with Him, we avoid him. We don’t spend time with Him in private. Instead of engaging in intimacy we sadly choose to sleep on the couch.
My guess is that a high percentage of us who attend church regularly, while having come to accept God’s saving love, have not yet fully come to know God through extreme intimacy.
We go through the wedding ceremony, and then spend a lifetime sleeping on the couch – never experiencing true intimacy with God.
God wants to be intimate with you. Whether you have avoided intimacy in the past out of reluctance, fear or lack of understanding makes no difference. God wants to be alone with you. He has pursued you so that you could be intimate with him. Hebrews 4:16 says, Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence …A remarkably extreme privilege.
At this point you may be wondering, “What do I need to do to be intimate with God?” Or you may be saying, “If I were truly alone with Him I wouldn’t know what to do!”
Even though intimate times with God take different shapes and forms for different individuals, it is helpful to learn from others. Someone from right here in our church who takes intimacy with God very seriously is Dave Crooks. Dave has graciously agreed to give us a glimpse into a very private sector of his life by sharing with us this morning what goes on when He is alone with God. Dave…
Dave Crooks testimony
As you can tell, Dave has been at this for awhile. But any of us can do the essence of what Dave does. Set aside a time where it is just us and God. A time when the world has to wait.
Maybe, like Dave, you could do this at home – maybe you could take your lunch break in quiet place like a park, or a hospital chapel – Maybe once in a while you could spend an entire Saturday morning out at the Arboretum, maybe you could go camping and take a private prayer retreat.
The key is to take intimacy seriously.
In his book called, Prayer, Richard Foster relates the story of how a friend of his was walking through the mall with his two-year-old son. The child was in a particularly fussy and uncooperative mood, as two-year-olds can sometimes be. The frustrated father tried to do everything to quiet his son, but nothing seemed to help. The child simply would not obey. So in a moment of special inspiration, the father picked up his son, held him close to his chest and began singing an impromptu love song. None of the words rhymed, he sang off key. But as best he could, he shared his heart. He sang… “I love you…I’m so glad you’re my boy…You make me happy… I like the way you laugh.” They went from one store to the next, the Father quietly singing off key and making up words that did not rhyme. The child relaxed and became still listening to this strange and wonderful song.
Finally, they finished shopping and went to the car. As the father opened the door, and began to buckle his son into the carseat, the child lifted his head and said, “Sing it to me again, Daddy! Sing it to me again.”
Foster says, “Prayer is a little like that. With simplicity of heart we allow ourselves to be gathered up into the arms of the Father and let him sing his love song over us.” (Prayer, p. 3-4)
The more I read the Bible, I get the impression that God’s desire is to create a picture of intimacy so compelling that his loved ones can’t wait for the next chance to be alone with Him.
TRANSITION: God’s reckless love leads us to the place of unparalleled intimacy. Those are the first two passages of the extreme privilege growth process. The third passage could be called…
III. RADICAL DIFFERENCE
There is real change that occurs in the privacy of intimate moments with God. The Old Testament says that after Moses came down from his meeting with God on Mt. Sinai, his face was glowing. For me that’s always been an interesting picture of what happens when we are alone with God for a significant period of time. We begin to radiate His glory. We change.
If we want to be world-changers, it doesn’t happen without regular time on our knees in prayer.
Hebrews 4 says…
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
A saw a funny cartoon recently in which a man was surrounded by a group of odd looking creatures wearing signs that said things like “gluttony, greed, late night Cable TV, etc.” The caption at the bottom said, “Bob poses for a picture with his own personal demons.”
Got any personal demons? Problem areas of your life that just don’t seem to get under control no matter how hard you try.
Anger or temper
There is a story in Mark 9 where the disciples of Jesus are asked to drive an evil spirit out of a boy. But they can’t do it. Jesus returns from the Mount of Transfiguration finds them in the middle of an argument with a large crowd of onlookers. So he casts out the evil spirit himself.
Later, his disciples asked him, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
And the same is true with our personal demons.
You want help with that temper? Get alone with God.
Dealing with pride issues, selfishness, bitterness, hatred or resentment?
Day after day – go in that secret place to be intimate with God.
My morning routine – usually consists of getting out of bed, going down to the living room where I kneel and pray, “Not my will but yours, I lay down my life. Mold me today. Shape me. Prepare me to do whatever you ask.”
A world changer must take seriously the extreme privilege of direct access to the throne of God. And go there daily.
TRANSITION: God’s reckless love draws us to be intimate with Him so He can make a radical difference in our lives. A lasting difference. True change in the world.
As I told you last week, we’re learning a world-changing process that is going to spell the word “LINK.”
Big Idea: I need to…
L - Lay down my life…daily… through
I – INTIMACY WITH GOD
In two weeks, on Sunday, November 4, each person here is going to receive a link as a reminder of the things we’ve learned.