Seeing Beyond Yourself
February 02, 2020 | Randy Smith
Seeing Beyond Yourself
Sunday, February 2, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
Have you ever been blindsided? Has anything ever caught you by surprise? Perhaps something you didn’t expect to see? Possibly something you didn’t expect to hear? Maybe something you didn’t expect to taste?
When I was in the Florida Everglades two weeks ago following a family from our church in their quest to catch nonnative pythons (let me add – following at a distance), I was video recording a large snake that they caught. I didn’t expect the snake to accidently be tossed in my direction. You can say I was blindsided. By reaction alone, I turned away with all my force. Unfortunately, I blindsided Carly who unknown to me was taking pictures inches behind my head. It was a violent collusion. Remarkably no one was injured. Blindsided!
Last week by way of review, we looked at the well-known story regarding the rich man and Lazarus from Luke 16. Because the rich man ignored God his entire life, he lived a very self-focused life. The reality of his refusal to meet the desperate needs of a man on his property was evidence he did not have salvation in Jesus Christ. The Bible says he died, was buried and went to Hades. He was totally taken by surprise that his eternal fate was sealed forever in torment (verse 23). Talk about being blindsided!
Did you know even the most spiritually mature Christians can be blindsided spiritually? If we are not continually vigilant, we can unexpectedly end up in a predicament that is not good.
In verse 3 of chapter 17 our Lord says, “Be on your guard!”
Implication, it is easy for us to be blindsided in our spiritual lives. If we are not continuously vigilant, we will veer off course. We will think we are right when we are very wrong. We will let pride dictate our spiritual direction. We will be blindsided. Therefore, be spiritually alert! And that thought (in verse 3) will tie together the three essential thoughts (our three points in the sermon) as found in verses 1-10.
Here is the main point. Due to our pride, we need to stay spiritually alert and continually walk in close communion with our Savior. And in doing so, we’ll see beyond our needs (like the rich man failed to do – like pride fails to do) to be aware of the needs of others.
Pride Is Careless Toward Others (verses 1–2)
Point one, “Pride is Careless Toward Others.”
I’ve been harping on the need to be engaged with the spiritual battles in our culture with an ultimate concern for the Gospel. And I’ve been harping that while we stand for truth, it is essential that we do it with love and grace. Toward the unbeliever, our ultimate goal is not to always win the argument as much as it is to win them to Christ. Vicious, rude, sarcastic name-calling tactics are not Fruits of the Spirit nor will they adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here’s an example from the clever satirical site, “Babylon Bee” that I read just this week.
U.S.—In a brief exchange on Twitter last week, user "Freethinker451" said in a public conversation that he thought religion was "poisoning people's minds." Not long after the comment was posted, user "BaptistBen590" replied to the comment with words that would change Freethinker451's life.
"You're a moron, that is all," said the tweet from BaptistBen590. Later that day, Freethinker451 announced publicly that he had repented of his sin and found Christ, all thanks to the tough love shown to him by BaptistBen590. "I once was lost, but now I'm found. Thank you, Ben," the post read.
BaptistBen590 is only one of a network of Christian troll outreach ministers from the growing organization "Trolls With a Mission." "We spread the gospel by tearing people to shreds online," said the TWM founder, Brad Gilkey. "And also by calling them total morons."BaptistBen590 says he will continue to follow the Holy Spirit's prompting to call anyone a moron he feels led to totally own (Babylon Bee, January 27th, 2020).
So that is being clueless toward unbelievers, but did you know that oftentimes we are clueless to fellow believers as well?
Look at verse 1. “[Jesus] said to His disciples, ‘It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!’”
Another word for “stumbling blocks” is temptations. In other words, things that prompt us to sin. In other words again, often we sin because we choose to receive temptations in our lives – places we go, things we watch, thoughts we entertain. The Christian life is to pursue Christ which means avoiding sin. We go a long way to avoid sin by avoiding temptations.
But as Jesus said in verse 1, “It is inevitable that [temptations] will come.” This is a sinful world. We are is plagued by unlimited temptations bombarding us every day. And since we are called to live in this world to reach others, we must learn to battle the temptations in our lives that are unavoidable.
We will be at times blindsided by temptations, but what Jesus is getting at in verse 1 is that we must be “on [our] guard” to avoid adding temptations in another’s life because of our decisions. How serious is this? Verse 1, “Woe to him through whom they come.” We must radically limit our freedoms if necessary if it means doing all we can from leading another person into sin.
Even if it means something that may cause another to violate his or her conscience. We are to be alert!
What we wear. When we pull out the alcohol. What we post on the Internet. What we brag about watching. What we encourage others to do. What we flaunt. What we discuss with others.
The goal again – that no one will ever be tempted to sin, even by violating a conscience because of the negative and careless actions on my part.
You say, come on, you are taking this concern for others too far? Well, how about Paul in 1 Corinthians 8? The Corinthians incorrectly thought it was wrong to eat meat previously sacrificed to idols. But even though they were mistaken, to eat that meat would have violated their conscience. Paul’s response? “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Cor. 8:13).
Again, am I taking this one too far? Look at verse 2. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones [a believer in Christ] to stumble.”
This is something we do not think about enough. No wonder Jesus said we must be “on [our] guard.”
Pride Refuses To Forgive (verses 3–4)
Another area where we are often blindsided is our refusal to truly forgive others. Let’s move to the second point.
Verses 3-4, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Here is the bottom line. You need to forgive others. Now let me unpack it.
Why? Why am I commanded to forgive others that sin against me? Very simple, because if you are in Christ, Jesus has forgiven you. Almighty, perfectly holy God has forgiven every sin you have and will commit against Him. He paid an awful price of bearing your sin on the cross. The Perfect One has granted complete forgiveness to the imperfect ones. And that forgiveness came as a free gift on the basis of His grace.
How in the world can we say we accept that and we understand that and we cherish that and then refuse to forgive a fellow sinner who sins against us?
Jesus is not saying forgiveness is always in the absence of justice or that full reconciliation is always possible or that you go forward as best-buddies or that we do not set boundaries with others. He is simply saying we must forgive others from our heart regardless of how many times they might sin against us.
How? How do I know I have properly forgiven others that have sinned against me? Here is a sure-fire test to know you have truly forgiven someone. 1. You no longer dwell on the incident. 2. You do not bring up the incident or use it against the person. 3. You do not talk to others about the incident. 4. You do not allow the incident to stand in-between you and the person whereby it may hinder your relationship (Ken Sande, Adapted from: “Peacemaking Principles”).
If you want a simple evaluation, apply my Walmart test. If you unexpectedly see someone coming down your aisle at Walmart, can you speak with that individual in a loving, kind and peaceful way? Can you face that individual without the temptation to scoot down a different aisle? Can you say, “It was nice to see you” and really mean it?
The question I receive so often. What if they do not want to reconcile with me – or in line with this verse – does not come to me to repent? I have a verse for you. Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Reconciliation is a two-way street. Our responsibility is to forgive.
Don’t be blindsided in thinking you are right with God while you harbor bitterness and unforgiveness toward another, especially when that individual is a fellow believer in Christ.
Pride Wants Payback (verses 7–10)
Our Lord gives us one more that is found in verses 7-10. Here is another example when our pride acts in a way that is totally inappropriate. Point number three, pride always wants payback. You need to be on the alert about this!
Maybe it’s payback to hurt someone else the way they hurt me (second point). Or maybe it’s payback to have someone reward me for the way I have blessed them (this point). We can treat others with our conditional gift-giving and service – “strings attached.” And if we are not on the alert, we can also treat God that way as well.
To make the point, Jesus tells another parable. Follow along closely.
Beginning in verse 7. “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink?’”
Do you get the point? This would have been a small estate with one full-time servant. The servant would have been responsible for many varied responsibilities throughout the day. So, he plows the field and tends the sheep. Yet he also had a responsibility to prepare food for the master. So, even after a hard day’s work, the master would not say, “Take a break and let me grab you a bite to eat.” Rather he would say, “Do your responsibility and feed me and then when all your responsibilities are fulfilled for the day You can grab a bite to eat for yourself.”
Verse 9, “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?
Of course not. That was his job. It’s like when cashier gives us the proper change in the check-out line. We often say, “Thank you.” That’s nice, but technically the cashier should be thanking me for patronizing their business. We formally need to thank someone for doing us a favor, not for doing what is expected of them.
So, here is the application in verse 10. “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”
Let me put this as simple as I can. Jesus is our Master and we are His slaves. He is a loving and kind Master, but that does not change the fact that He is our Master, our Lord. He gives us commands that we are expected to follow. Doing the commands is in our best interest, but the point is that we are required to do as He says. It’s how we show our love and trust for Him. And as the slave, we should not expect our Master to thank us for doing what is expected.
This is important to understand because if we are driven by pride and thus unaware of what we are doing (not being alert), we will begin to think as if God obligated to return the favor.
Our pride very naturally (and wrongly) keeps a record of our acts of obedience to God – the persecution we received, the service we rendered, the Gospel presentations we made, the devotionals accomplished, the church attendance we completed, the commands we followed. And when we do this, we hold a mentality that God becomes our debtor (we reverse the roles), that God is now our slave, we are the master and that God is responsible to pay me back. He is required to “settle the accounts.” And if He refuses to do so, we question His love and justice. We use lines like, “After all that I do for Him why would He allow this to happen or not favorably answer my prayer?”
Don’t be blindsided. We are not worthy to serve God. He does not even need our service. He does not owe us anything. We cannot boast before God. Faithful service does not exalt me or change my role as a slave. Faithful service only confirms that I am His slave. We obey Him because it is a special privilege and honor. It is the wonder of wonders that God has chosen to use us.
We must be alert! If we are walking in pride, we can easily get blindsided. These are indeed lofty commands. No temptations placed before others causing them to sin. Complete forgiveness when others sin against us. And honorably serving God because we are unworthy slaves who desire nothing in return.
They should be seen as lofty standards. The apostles felt that way. Look at verses 5-6. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ What a great response! To see and do these commands of Jesus takes incredible faith.
But what did Jesus say to them? “If you had [better “have”?] faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”
So, is this a call to test our faith by being able to call a tree with deep roots to be uprooted, sail across the sky, fall in the ocean and then be planted? Of course not. Jesus is using hyperbole in metaphorical language. He is saying a little faith can do wonders. Be encouraged!
Pride is faith in self and the absence of faith in God. We can indeed obey God, but we can only do it by His grace. We can only do it by faith and a little faith goes a long way. When it comes to obeying God’s hard commands, “[We] can do all things through Him who strengthens [us]” (Phil. 4:13).