This is a somewhat abridged transcript of a sermon I preached 9/2 titled: “How will I glorify God despite the cards I’ve been dealt?” I’m leaning heavily on some inspiring work already done by such names like the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, CS Lewis, John Piper, and Pastor Mark Driscoll, as well as a fantastic video used as our opening image by Eddie James from The Skit Guys. Full audio from the sermon can be listened to by CLICKING HERE, or downloaded from the church’s iTunes account by clicking: HERE.And yes, I heard that weird sound a few times that sounds like a bendy straw in the microphone…
The sermon began with the video clip embedded below.
How will you glorify God with the cards you’ve been dealt today?
Each of us is holding our own deck of cards. It doesn’t matter who we are: married-widowed-single-divorced-retired-student-Christian-church guest… each of us has our own set of life circumstances. Some of them are the result of choices we’ve made, others are things done to us, and the list goes on. At times we lay our cards on the table face up for the world to see, and other times we hold them close to the vest… to keep them hidden. But each of us is holding a hand in this thing we call life; we are each holding a hand of the cards we’ve been dealt.
The question is: How will I glorify God with the cards I’ve been dealt? I’ll answer that with three points:
1.) Focus on Jesus.
In the last few weeks of our series on “Pleasing God” we’ve been presented two big truths: The first is that pleasing God is only possible through Jesus. Salvation is only possible through Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24; Romans 1:16-17; Hebrews 11:6). The second is that holiness is only attainable through Jesus. On the one hand, we must be holy in order to enter the presence of God (Hebrews 12:14), but fortunately Jesus Himself made this possible (John 14:6).
So based on that context, our first point is made. Focus on Jesus, because he is both the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Steven King is an author. He’s the originator of some pretty dark and twisted stories that could only have originated in his mind. In the same way, Jesus is the author of your faith; of your story. It could only have come from Him. He is the originator of it. But that isn’t all. The Bible says he is both the author AND perfecter. That means that not only does faith originate from Him, it is also perfected by Him.
I have a three year old son. If I hand him a toy top to spin, he will just as likely strike his sister with it. But if she doesn’t strike back and spins the top, it spins and spins until it loses momentum and rests still. Many people believe this is how God works; that He spun the world and your life into existence and is now spending his retirement in a cabana somewhere. But the bible says Jesus also is our perfecter; He is writing that story and seeing it through to perfection.
Since Jesus is our Author and Perfecter, we focus on Jesus.
2.) Don’t Get sidetracked.
Here is where our main text comes in to play. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-31 Paul addresses a distracting side issue related to first century idolatry. Many early converts to the Christian faith had grown up in a religious system that required a very clear and public separation from other religions. In this case, the issue of meat that had been sacrificed to idols was a topic worthy of Paul’s attention. One way way for me to describe this today would be to consider that many Jews require food to be Kosher, or Muslims require food to be halal. Early followers of Christ found themselves conflicted, because they were attempting to live in the freedom of Christ, and yet felt that by eating such meat, they may be partaking in an unacceptable compromise.
Paul addresses this point well in shifting the context evangelism and to bringing glory to God, and not ourselves. There are side issues many Christians have opinions on today, and yet these are not essential elements of the faith.
For instance, some Christians choose to abstain from the consumption of alcohol. However, if someone who isn’t a part of the church orders a glass of wine on a dinner date, it would seem foolish to me as a christian to make it a point to glorify my own perceived (and misguided) sense of holiness over not having my own glass of wine. It doesn’t seem to benefit the non-Christian dinner guest, and really seems to shine a light more on the teetotaler than anyone else.
Another example is smoking. Look on a package of cigarettes and you may be convinced by the “SMOKING KILLS” in block letters that this is not a wise choice. We may even take it one small step further and say that smoking, being harmful to our bodies, is not the best way to display how a follower of Jesus treats his or her self. But again, making a loud, long, spiritual argument over tobacco use with a friend or coworker who is not a Christian might not be the most effective form of evangelism. And I am not convinced that we are instructed to use our opportunities to confront the world on the side issues of alcohol consumption and tobacco use. And I also do not think if OUR friend smokes a cigarette outside a restaurant after finishing his lone glass of beer that OUR calling is to confront his behavior. This isn’t the main issue at all.
So why on earth were so many early converts making a big deal out of who prepared and cut the meat in the market? That’s the point Paul makes. He gives them the blessing to live according to their convictions, but asks that they not make them a public “statement” that they become known for. Making such a public statement about what meat they ate… or didn’t, tended to really just bring the attention to themselves rather than God. And standing on a table at a dinner date with the neighbors to make sure everyone around knows that you aren’t having a beer or smoking a cigarette… that may also be more about bringing ourselves perceived glory, rather than reflecting the love of Jesus.
So we focus on Jesus, and don’t get sidetracked. It is easy to get sidetracked on side issues. It may be tempting to take a stand on non-essentials in the earshot of a select audience for our own personal glory. It is better to take a stand on what is essential to nudge others toward Jesus. It is better to be known by what we are for, than what we are against.
3.) Apply the timeless truths of Scripture to our present circumstances.
Here is the part where I rip off John Piper, Pastor Mark Driscoll, and Martin Luther. The timeless truth in this passage isn’t about eating a certain kind of meat, but rather how to go about our lives making decisions that reflect glory to Jesus and not ourselves. And there are four questions we can ask ourselves when making critical decisions that will enable us to do just that: Glorify God, not us.
The questions are:
Is it LAWFUL? (1 Corinthians 10:23)
Is it HELPFUL? (1 Corinthians 10:24)
Is it LOVING? (Psalm 115:1)
Is it EVANGELISTIC? (1 Corinthians 10:33)
Test this yourself. I took to Twitter and Facebook to help me test this theory. The first question was “What are the best excuses you have heard for gossip?” and the second was “what are some of the effects from comparing ourselves to other people?” For gossip, the overwhelming response from the Christians that participated had to do with people using the veil of prayer requests and prayer groups to slander others. What a sad indictment on the church, that God would give us prayer, and we would give back destruction and dissension among the ranks.
Gossip. Is it Lawful? Yes. Is it helpful? Not to anyone but the agenda of harmful, unhealthy people. (SIDE NOTE: the same person who tends to bring you the tales and gossip at the office/neighborhood/church is bringing your story to others when you aren’t there. Be on your guard against the tale bearers, and repent and seek forgiveness if you’re the one.) Is it helpful? No. Is it evangelistic? No. It is not evangelistic when a Christian, the instrument of God’s grace in Jesus is slithering around from office to office to kitchen to phone call and stabbing people in the back, kicking them when they’re down, and elevating their own sense of self-importance. Gossip fails the test. Therefore, gossip does not bring glory to God.
Comparing ourselves to others. Is it lawful? Yes. It is helpful? No. You will either see yourself as superior to someone, or see yourself as an inferior failure. This is not helpful. Is it Loving? No. There is no love shared here, no encouragement being given. Only jealousy and bitterness come out of this. Is it evangelistic? Placing the focus on ourselves and how we measure up to others is incompatible with reflecting everything we have back to God. No, comparing ourselves to others does not bring glory to God. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, jealous of their success, critical of their methods, bitter over their their accomplishments, and outspoken about their motives… you need to repent and seek forgiveness.
Finally, let’s talk about the cards you’re currently holding. There are a lot of unknowns in this life. You aren’t responsible for what cannot and might not ever be known. That’s God’s job. But there are some things in life where we ARE each responsible to make decisions; where we must make choices that glorify God. I’m not saying that each of these four questions above are the ONLY way to glorify God, but I guarantee they will help.
How will I glorify God with the cards I’ve been dealt? Focus on Jesus, Don’t get sidetracked, and apply timeless truth to present circumstances. When faced with decisions and life choices, ask the questions: Is it lawful? Is it helpful? Is it loving? Is it evangelistic? Make the right choices that nudge people to Jesus, rather than shine the light on yourself.