Do The Math: Subtraction

Categories: Do The Math

Welcome to the second week of our series entitled Do The Math. My name is Brian Morrissey and I am the Worship and Small Groups Pastor here at the Amelia Church of Christ and I’ll be very honest, me preaching a series that has the word “math” in the title is just…fantastic because I enjoy math. Actually, that’s probably not a strong enough statement. I appreciate math. I delight in math. I savor math. I love doing math. And I would keep going, because the thesaurus has many more words for me. But I think you get the idea.

Like our Senior Pastor, I failed one class in my entire life. Elementary school, Jr. High, high school, and college…I only failed one class in my entire educational career. I was a senior in high school, and the class was NOT Algebra 1 unlike my contemporary that speaks from this stage every week.

Moving right along, we’re in the Book of John for this series and more specifically in chapter three, where John the Baptist shows us some basic arithmetic. And as Mike said last week, no matter whether you hate math or love math, you’re not going to believe what will happen in your life and what will happen in our church when we learn and apply this basic arithmetic principle.

Let’s pray and we’ll open the Word this morning.

I want to ask you a very serious question this morning. It’s not a question that requires a ton of thought because it’s a question you’re always reflecting on. Here it is, what is your biggest pet peeve? Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this because you already know what it is. It’s the top 1 or 2 things that when “this” happens, it drives you up the wall.

Here’s a few just for thought:

Going through the drive thru at a fast food restaurant and they mess up your order, so you have to park your car, get out and go inside to get it fixed. Drives me nuts.

How about when someone leaves their phone number at the end of a ridiculously long voicemail message and they say it so fast that you don’t have the time to write it down, so you have to listen to the entire five minute message again in order to get the last few digits.

How about when you pull that string on your clothing and it doesn’t break, it only becomes longer and longer and longer…

And don’t even get me started on other drivers. I get annoyed at drivers who tailgate, drivers who creep past the white line at the red light as if every stoplight is the Daytona 500, drivers who won’t turn right on red, and drivers who continue to sit at the green light because they’re either texting, or eating, or doing their makeup, or just daydreaming.

Here’s the deal with all of these things though. The string that ties all of these together is the fact that these are all examples of things that bother me because they inconvenience me. They’re not what’s best for me.

The problem is that you love yourself. We’ve made life all about ourselves. What’s convenient for me? What’s good for me? And we get sucked into this entitlement mentality that has become the driving force in our lives. This morning, we’re going to take some time to unpack a new paradigm in our lives and I promise you, if you apply this principle in your life, your world will dramatically shift and things will be completely different. I believe this message today can be a total game changer in your life if you will understand and apply what I have for you from God’s Word this morning.

Let’s have a look at our focus text for this series. We’re in the Book of John, chapter 3 and we’re looking at a situation where Jesus was beginning his ministry and his cousin, John the Baptist, who had followers just like Jesus, is beginning to receive questions from his followers regarding his future in ministry now that Jesus has arrived on the scene. We’ll pick it up in verse of 26 of John 3.

26 [His followers] came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:26-30, NIV)

Mike taught us last week that John’s followers were wondering if John was going to be able to continue baptizing people because everyone was going to Jesus and the key thing that John says here is found in Verse 30. John says, “He, (meaning Jesus), must become greater, I must become less.”

Last week, we honed in on the fact that Jesus must increase and we caught the principle of addition and how we need to learn this simple equation that Jesus + nothing = everything. This week, we’re going to focus on the last half of Verse 30. Jesus must become greater, but I must become less. Or, if you’re reading from the English Standard Version, He must increase, I must decrease. (John 3:30, ESV)

This week, we’re going to focus on the mathematical principle of subtraction. Now, this message will change so many things for the better if you apply it instantly, but I’m not going to blow smoke at you, it’s going to be really hard to do because we’ve been subtly trained to do the exact opposite. Our culture, our world, teaches us that the more we have, the better off we are and the less we have, the weaker we are. We learn from our culture that we need to pursue the American Dream of happiness, wealth, and prosperity. We live in a country where kids get trophies on a team that may have not won any games that season. Seriously. In other words, our culture teaches us that “it’s all about me.” Culture says, it’s all about addition for you. The more you have, the happier you are.

However, Jesus teaches us a different rule of math. Jesus teaches us that in order for us to have true happiness, we have to become less. We have to decrease. We have to subtract something. The point of Jesus’ math is, It’s NOT about me. As a matter of fact, everybody try those words on for size, ready 1, 2, 3…

Alright, that was okay, but now turn to the person next to you and say, It’s not about you. 1, 2, 3…Now why was that easier? Because we’ve been trained to respond that way. This is a tough thing to crack. Say this now once more with me: “It’s not about me.”

In Matthew 22, Jesus was confronted about Scripture and out of all 613 official commands in the Old Testament, Jesus was asked what the greatest one was and I love this because the religious people were always trying to trap Jesus and it never worked. Jesus could always find option C in their plan and he responds by saying this:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)

Jesus tells us that these are the two most important things that we can do. If we embrace these two things, we’ll have it together. As a matter of fact, everything else is based on and centered around these two commands. And looking harder at this passage, where do you see that it’s all about you? You don’t – because it’s not all about you. God wants you to know that it’s all about Jesus and it’s all about others.

Think about it this way. How does the Lord’s Prayer start? Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be YOUR name. YOUR kingdom, YOUR will…It’s all about God. It’s not, dear God, here’s some things you could do to make my life better. God’s not a genie, he’s sovereign. He’s holy. God should be the center of your universe and everything else should revolve around Him.

Now, most of us get that concept. It’s relatively easy to pick up. The problem comes with the other half of Jesus’ command. Love your neighbor as yourself. We find it easy to love ourselves. It’s another thing to love others because we’re so quick to point out their flaws.

Go back to the list of pet peeves we came up with earlier. Every single one of those annoyances has to do with the fact that we value our selfish interest and desires above everyone else’s. We’ve been brainwashed by our culture to believe that life should be this way and in God’s math, it just doesn’t work that way.

As a matter of fact, the only way to do successful math in God’s world is to subtract yourself, to put yourself at the end of the spectrum. The commands that Jesus gave us as the most important have this continuum in mind. God is first, others are second and I am last. You have to put yourself dead last in order to live out the principle “it’s not about me.”

In our equation Mike gave us from last week, we learned that Jesus + nothing = everything. Keeping that equation in mind, I want you to read Philippians 2 with me:

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. (Philippians 2:5-7a, NIV1984)

If Jesus made himself nothing then we should have his same attitude and make ourselves nothing.

So, looking at that equation, what is the nothing in that equation? You’re right, it’s us. We are the nothing in the equation. (See, we said no algebra in this series, but I’m working in substitutions anyway.) If you don’t like math, you didn’t get that joke.

We are the nothing in the equation: Jesus + nothing = everything. In order for the equation to work, in order for us to get everything in the equation, we have to become nothing. We have to become servants and embrace the principle of subtraction.

In essence, Jesus – nothing = everything because it’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus. And when we really start to apply this principle to our lives, amazing things can happen.

Now, you might push back and say to yourself, well, that’s all well and good, but how can I practically use that in my life? Where do I start applying that so that it can have the most impact on my day to day journey.

For the rest of our time together this morning, we’re going to explore four areas of our lives where applying this principle of “it’s not about me” will help us begin to see amazing results. “It’s not about me” is not just another catchy saying or a bumper sticker slogan. It is God’s formula for us decreasing in our personal priorities so that Jesus can become greater.

If you embrace the idea that it’s not about me, then these four areas of your life will improve dramatically. So here we go.

Idea number one: If I embrace the idea that “it’s not about me,” My marriage improves.

How many married people do we have here today? Raise your hand if your married. Put them up, okay now keep them up if you’ve ever had problems in your marriage. Okay, see all of you who just put your hands down are liars are you need to come talk with me after church about that issue. No seriously, look at how many people have problems in their marriage. You’re not alone. Okay, hands down.

Let me tell you why you have marriage problems because as you can see, you’re not alone. Everybody has marriage problems because we all have a problem with ourselves. We’ve made life all about us and we all have selfish single problems that we brought into our marriages. It cracks me up that people think if they just get married it will solve everything. I’ve counseled with young couples who have told me they understand that they have issues, but if they just get married then those problems will disappear. All of you who raised your hand that are married, did that work for you? because it didn’t work for me. My selfish issues hung around long after I got married. They didn’t just magically disappear. And then we had a child, and we threw a very selfish person on top of everything else.

See, we go into marriage thinking the wrong thoughts. Guys, you were getting ready for your wedding and prepping for everything that was coming and the big day finally arrived and where was your mind? It was on the ceremony wasn’t it? You were thinking abut how your groomsmen were going to look so snazzy in their tuxes and your bride was going to look so beautiful as her flower girl came down the aisle and all the flowers and family were there. That’s what you were thinking of right? Come on, you were thinking about what was going to happen after the ceremony. You were thinking about the wedding night. That’s where your mind was. And we can laugh at that, but here’s the thing, what are guys really thinking when we’re considering that? It’s all about me.

You go into marriage thinking, my wife’s going to meet MY needs and here’s what happens – the minute she doesn’t meet your needs, you begin to despise her because you’re selfish.

Ladies, you’re guilty too because you go into the marriage and you watch way too many Romantic movies. Now, I’m not the anti-Romantic movie guy, there’s actually quite a few that I think are really well done, but do you know why they usually end the movie right after they get engaged or get married? It’s because a year later, that thing is broken. It’s in pieces.

Ladies, you think that Prince Charming is going to be my husband, that he’ll rescue me, he’ll never disappoint me, he’ll always be there for me to talk to me, to hold me to cuddle with me because it’s all about me.

And that won’t go well for you because while Prince Charming may start out like that, no man can sustain your worship. Gentlemen, your wife cannot meet all of your needs and she cannot sustain your worship. There is one man that can do all of that for you, but he’s not your husband. His name is Jesus.

If you were to take a poll this morning and ask someone what was wrong with their marriage, they’ll usually say, she doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that, she does this, he does that, bla, bla, bla, bla, bla….

The problem is that there’s a lack of service in the marriage. No one ever says, well it’s bothering me that he keeps serving me. She does things with no ulterior motive. He’s always there for me and it bothers me.

Now that isn’t always the case, but let’s say 90% of the problem is their problem. It’s not 100% because it takes 2 to mess up a marriage. Let’s say 90% is really their problem and 10% is your own. If you own your 10% and you serve them with your 10%, you watch what happens to your marriage because you’ll grow together like crazy and watch your marriage grow.

Now, don’t get out of here today and say to your spouse, did you hear that, fix yourself, because then you’re missing the point. Try to out serve your spouse and watch what happens to your marriage. It’s not about me.

Idea number two: If I embrace the idea that “it’s not about me,” My finances improve

Each one of us in this room have made at least one stupid, foolish, irrational, dumb financial decision. If I were to ask you in a one on one conversation what that decision was, you could tell me right away. All of us have made bad financial decisions, but one thing I can guarantee about those decisions is that they were made with yourself in mind. None of us made those decisions because we were trying to be generous. It’s because we were trying to be selfish. It’s because we were trying to live for ourselves instead of serving others.

Cara and I used to have a credit card. Notice I said used to. All you Dave Ramsey people know exactly why I say used to and if you don’t have a clue why I say used to, get in our FPU Small Group and find out.

We lived here in Ohio and decided that we wanted to visit Cara’s parents out in California and we were flat broke at the time. Living paycheck to paycheck and had no way we were going to be able to afford that, so I decided to make a dumb decision. I decided we were going to put the trip on our credit card and then pay the balance off when we got our income tax return.

Well, you can guess the rest. When that tax return came in, it went to anything and everything but our trip on our credit card and that bill eventually accrued interest which we eventually had to pay off at what was two and a half times the amount we used to take the trip in the first place. It was all because of a moment of selfish decision though. It’s because I made an all about me decision.

The point is that every single one of us are natural born takers. Anybody have a child that showed up and immediately wanted to give? We want to take, take, take.

When we ask Jesus into our lives, he changes us from the inside out but what we’ve got to do is train ourselves to be godly. We’ve got to move from greed to generosity. Generosity doesn’t come natural, greed does.

Jesus told us to love God and love others. What if we put God first, others second and ourselves last in our financial lives? Think about it for a second, don’t get mad, just think about it. We might not have that really nice car, but our kids wouldn’t have to take high interest loans out to go to school. We might not have four plasma television sets in our house, but we wouldn’t be upside down in three or four credit card bills.

By the way, God established the principle of tithing very clearly through the Scriptures. We are supposed to put him first in our finances, but people who are circumventing the tithe are always trying to find a way to be selfish and greedy.

The only reason we struggle with this is because we’ve made it all about us. Everything you have belongs to God. You are not entitled to any of it. God is the provider and the benefactor of everything that you have and the Bible says He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

Look, God’s not interested in your money and neither is our Church. We’re both interested in the exact same thing: the condition of your heart. If your heart belongs to you, then your equation is the other one we talked about last week: Jesus + something else = nothing. If your heart belongs to God, then everything else will improve in your life because you have decreased yourself. Your finances will belong to God because your heart does. You’ll tithe because you want to obey God. God’s cannot be the Lord of your wallet, if he’s not the Lord of your heart.

Moving on. Idea number three: If I embrace the idea that “it’s not about me,” My career improves.

You want to go all the way to the top in your job? Serve others.

I believe that Christians should be the hardest working people out of anyone. Maybe your boss isn’t a Christian but if you work hard, show up early, stay late and put your effort into doing your job through serving, your boss might say, I don’t really believe what they believe, but they are the most ethical, hard-working, servant I’ve ever seen.

We should be the example. As Christians, you shouldn’t lower the standard of excellence in your life, you should raise it. If you’re a Christian at work, you shouldn’t have to declare it, you should simply demonstrate it by doing excellent work.

What if you walked into your place of work tomorrow and said, it’s not about me?” I’m here to serve other people, I’m here to serve my boss.

Now, you might push back and say, no way, I’ll get ran over. No, you’ll be president of the company before you can blink. Success comes from surrendering to God and surrendering to other people through serving. The work force has never seen anything like that because it’s so counter-intuitive to what we’ve been taught.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you say, we’ll you’re just a minister, you don’t know anything about the real world. I love it when people who aren’t in ministry try to tell me about the real world. It always blows me away because I’ve seen more of the real world than I care to see. You say, well, in the real world, we live in a pagan, non-Christian society and that serving stuff doesn’t work. Well, then why did it Jesus model it and command it if it doesn’t work? .

Now, those three are very practical basics that you can improve in your life no matter if you’re a Christian or not. If you serve others in your marriage, in your finances through being generous, and at your workplace, then you will see things improve exponentially. Idea number four is the spiritual side of the equation and it’s really built around the other three. If the other three aren’t working, this doesn’t work.

Most chairs have four legs and the reason they have four legs is because they need all four to support the weight of whatever is resting on them. A chair with three legs is going to fall over.

There are four basic legs to a foundational relationship with Christ.

  1. Read your bible – you grow in your faith if you’ll read your bible. And start with a simple plan. If you got an apple device, android, cell phone, computer, you can grab one of the most powerful scripture tools I’ve ever seen called You Version. It’s got reading plans, different versions of the Bible and study guides. It’s amazing.
  2. Regular Church attendance – Church attendance is crucial to growing in your faith. Some people like to push back and say, the Church just isn’t important – all I need is Jesus and my Bible. If that’s the case then why did Jesus die for it, why is he the head of it (Col 1:18) and why is he coming back for it?
  3. Giving – We talked about that in depth earlier. Giving is all about God getting your heart. God is concerned about your heart and whether it belongs to Him first. God, then others, then myself.
  4. Serving other people is leg number four. You can’t have a solid foundation to rest anything else on if you don’t have all four legs.

And that means that Idea number four is this: If I embrace the idea that “it’s not about me,” My connection with God improves.

All of the legs of the other three don’t mean anything if the fourth one is missing. If you take the fourth leg out, the foundation can’t stand. If we will begin to wear ourselves out serving other people, we will grow in our relationship with God

Jesus said in Matthew 20 – whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV)

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Greatness happens when you serve.

We’re getting ready to make this huge move to the Holiday Inn in just under 6 weeks and we are going to need servants of all kinds for the move. We’re going to need servants who can turn a hotel into a church every Sunday (and a church back into a hotel). We’re going to need servants who can be over-the-top in welcoming our guests from the time they enter the property to the time they leave.

We’ll need servants who can nurture a distraction-free experience where our guests and members can worship. We’re going to need servants to help kids experience a safe, age-appropriate environment where the Bible is taught in exciting, creative and relevant ways. There are going to be many, many ways for you to proclaim to others that It’s not about me through serving at the Holiday Inn and we’re going to explore those more in detail during the next couple of weeks, and we’re going to even offer some training for you on March 24th and April 6th, but in order for it to work smoothly, in order for the kingdom to grow, in order for lost people to find Jesus, we have to first and foremost be willing to embrace the principle of subtraction, say it’s not about me and jump in to serve wherever we’re needed.

Jesus has called us to serve others. One of the most dangerous things that a follower of Christ can say is I don’t have time to serve. Because what we’re really saying is, I don’t have time to become like Jesus.

Success in life comes from surrender to God through serving other people.

So, what is the area of your life that you need to surrender to God that you’ve made all about you? What area in your life do you need to apply the principle of subtraction to and decrease yourself?

Romans 10:9 says – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV) If Jesus is your Lord, that means you surrender everything to him. It’s not about me, it’s all about you. He must increase, I must decrease. All of me for all of you Jesus.

Let’s all stand and as we do, I’d like you to keep your head bowed and your eyes closed. Whatever that area of life is that God laid on your heart that you need to surrender, lay it down at his feet.

If you’re here this morning and you want to talk to someone, our leaders are through the back doors of the auditorium and they want to pray with you and talk to you. As our band leads this last song, don’t wait, just move out of your seat and through those back doors. Lay it down. Surrender to him. It’s not about you. It’s all about Jesus.

Author: Brian Morrissey

Worship & Teaching Pastor