How are we Connect? Welcome to 2016. My name is Mike Edmisten. I’m the Senior Pastor here and I’m so glad that you’ve joined us for our first service in this new year.
This time of year, we’re hit with all kinds of messages about how to have a great year. I’m sure you’ve seen it. For example, this is the biggest time of the year for gym memberships, diet products, etc. And the advertisers know it. How many of those commercials have you seen in the past few days? So they hit us with all these messages that, if we can just lose some weight, it will help us to have a great year. And that’s just one example. We’re told a million different things we can do that will make 2016 a great year.
Well, in our first series of the year, we’re going to take a different approach. In this series, we’re going to talk about three ways to have a jacked up year. We’re going to talk about three different things we can do that will really mess this year up. If you want to have a messed up, screwed up, jacked up year, just do these three things and it WILL happen!
This should be fun. Let’s jump into the first way to have a jacked up year.
Make it all about you. If you want to have a jacked up year, do this one thing. This is a sure-fire way to be miserable. This is a guaranteed way to mess up everything in your life. Make it all about you.
Now, that’s not what we’re conditioned to believe in our culture, is it? We’re trained to believe just the opposite. We’re conditioned to believe that it should be all about us.
For example, we live in the culture of the selfie. In fact, our culture has become so selfie saturated that I actually preached a series last year called Selfie. It’s still one of my favorite series that we’ve ever had here at Connect. You can check it out on our website, connect.cc.
But think about it. Over a million selfies are uploaded to social media sites everyday. We had never even heard of selfies a few years ago, and now we’re uploading over a million of them everyday.
I’ve got a buddy who said that we really need to rename the selfie. Instead of selfies, he thinks we should call them needies. And he’s got a point. I’m not saying that you can never take a selfie, but let’s be honest…aren’t a lot of selfies just demonstrating our need for attention and affirmation and approval?
Really, that’s what a lot of our social media interaction in general has become. I need to share every detail of what is happening in my life, and I need for you to “like” it. And I’ll check my status 50 times a day to see if you have “liked” it, because I need that affirmation and approval. You know why? Because it’s all about me.
Can we all just step back for a minute and think about this? Isn’t this insane? Isn’t this just nuts?
I’m not anti-social media. Not at all. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. Our church is, too. In fact, if you don’t follow our church on Facebook, you should. If it’s happening at Connect, it will be on our website and on our Facebook page.
I’m not anti-social media. But I am anti-get your self-worth from social media. I am anti-everything is about me so I’ll post every detail of my life on social media. I am anti-that.
And the reason I am anti-that is because it jacks up everything. When I make everything about me, it messes everything up. It really does. And the reason it messes everything up is because, when everything is about me, I am living in a way that is contrary to the way that God designed for me to live.
We really see this truth come to life in a story from early on in Jesus’ ministry. We just celebrated the birth of Christ in December. Now we’re going to fast-forward about 30 years. Jesus’ public ministry began when He was about 30 years old.
One of the first things that Jesus did in His public ministry was to organize His team. We know them as His disciples. Today, we’re going to explore how He called His first disciples.
Matthew tells us about it in his gospel. In chapter 4, Matthew wrote, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20, NIV)
This seems like a simple scene at first glance, but when you dig down into it, you find that there is some big time truth here. Truth that can have a huge impact on our lives.
Jesus is out for a walk one day. He was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. And as He was walking, He saw two brothers. Simon, who would come to be known as Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were out in the lake fishing, because that was their job. They were fishermen.
And that’s when Jesus said something that sounds so simple, but it had life-changing implications for Peter and Andrew.
Jesus said, “Come, follow me.”
It’s simple. Just three words. Come, follow me. But the implications of these three words are huge. This was an incredible invitation, but it was an invitation that came at a cost. And if Peter and Andrew thought that it was all about them, they would have never followed Jesus because they would have never paid the cost.
Matthew tells us that Peter and Andrew “were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.” (Matthew 4:18b, NIV)
He doesn’t say, “They fished for a living.” He said, “They WERE fishermen.” Being a fisherman wasn’t just a job. It had become their identity. Whenever people talked about these two brothers, they would say, “Oh, I know them. They’re fishermen.”
It wasn’t just their job. It was what defined their socio-economic status. It was how they were known. It had become their identity. They WERE fishermen.
But then Jesus shows up. And He sets a radically different path in front of them.
Look at verse 19 again. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19, NIV)
Jesus didn’t just say, “Come, follow me.” He said, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people. Come, follow me and I’ll give you a whole new identity.”
Matthew said that these guys were fishermen. Now, Jesus showed up to change that. They were still going to fish, but they were going to fish for people. They were going to reach people with the gospel of Christ.
They would no longer be Peter and Andrew, fishermen. They would be Peter and Andrew, radical, sold-out followers of Jesus Christ. Following Jesus would completely change their identity.
And what we have to understand is that nothing has changed. Following Jesus changes our identity. It changes the core of who we are. And that’s why a lot of people don’t accept the call to follow Him. If it’s all about me, then I don’t want my identity to change. I like being the center of who I am. But if I follow Jesus, then He becomes the center of who I am. And there’s a price tag attached to that.
The price is that I have to die to myself. That’s what the Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
I have been crucified with Christ, meaning I have died to myself. The life I now life, I live by faith in the Son of God, meaning I am no longer the center of who I am. Jesus is the center of who I am. And it’s all because He loved me and gave Himself for me.
Eugene Peterson said, “That’s the whole spiritual life. It’s learning how to die.”
I can’t really follow Jesus if it’s all about me, because death to self is the centerpoint of it all. And there’s the real misunderstanding that so many people have about Christianity. Jesus isn’t inviting you to follow Him so you can become a better version of yourself. His invitation to follow Him means following Him to the cross. It’s an invitation to come and die.
This is the paradox of following Jesus. It costs us nothing and it costs us everything.
It costs us nothing because Jesus already did it all. His death paid the price for ALL our sin. His resurrection gives us a brand new life. And it’s all a free gift. There’s nothing for us to do to earn it. Salvation from Jesus costs us nothing.
But following Jesus costs us everything. As we follow Jesus, He changes us. His desires become our desires. We die to ourselves and live for Him. That’s the price that is attached to following Him. And that price shows up in very tangible ways in our lives.
It showed up in a very tangible way for Peter and Andrew. Think of the price tag that was attached when they followed Jesus. There was a very tangible cost that was involved.
It cost them financially. They were fishing when Jesus showed up, because that’s what they did. That’s who they were.
Jesus interrupts them while they’re working. And He said something really crazy. He wanted to send them out to fish for people. They probably didn’t even know what that meant at the time. And Jesus said all they had to do was follow Him.
Most people would have stayed in their boat. They would have wondered who this lunatic was who was on the shore yelling at them about fishing for people. The whole thing seemed crazy.
But it’s likely that Peter and Andrew had at least heard of Jesus. They had probably even met Him before. They knew that there was something different about Him. They knew that He was someone special.
So when Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” Matthew tells us, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:20, NIV)
Think about that. “At once they left their nets and followed him.”
That means that Peter and Andrew walked away from their livelihood to follow Jesus. Fishermen weren’t wealthy. You didn’t get rich by being a fisherman. Fishermen lived day-to-day. If you caught fish, you would eat that day. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t.
Peter and Andrew didn’t have deep bank accounts to live off of. They didn’t have stock options they could cash in. They walked away from the only financial means they had. Following Jesus cost them financially. If Peter and Andrew had believed that it was all about them, they would have never followed Jesus because of the financial cost. It was part of them dying to themselves.
What about you? Is the financial cost keeping you from following Jesus? Is that the part of you that you refuse to let die so Jesus can fully live in you?
Now that might sound like a weird question. Maybe even an offensive question. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wait a minute. Why are we talking about finances? Jesus doesn’t care about my money.”
I’m guessing you’ve never really read the Bible, have you? In reality, Jesus talked about money more than He talked about heaven and hell COMBINED.
In fact, listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 6. He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV 1984)
Think about that. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. It’s so hard to know what’s in someone’s heart, but Jesus did give us one concrete way to know for sure. Follow the money. Look where their treasure is invested. When you find that, you will have found what’s in their heart. Jesus is telling us that money is one of the only concrete ways to gauge what’s in our heart.
Now, that’s uncomfortable, isn’t it? That’s really uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable when we’re confronted with what is really in our heart.
My family spent a few days in Tennessee last week. It’s become one of our go-to spots to get away. While we were there, we went to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, which is something we never, ever do. Normally we avoid all the touristy things in that area. We just hang out up in the mountains. But we were given Dollywood tickets for Christmas, so we went. The Christmas lights at the park were pretty amazing, but the crowd was unbelievable. It was one of the most crowded places I’ve ever seen.
When it came time to leave, we waited in line to ride the tram back to our truck because we were parked in a parking lot almost two miles away. Did I mention that it was crowded? When an empty tram pulled up, it was like herding cattle into a trailer. It was crazy.
But finally we made it to the front of the line, so we figured we’d get on the next tram. It pulled up and stopped, and as we started to step into the tram, another family literally jumped in front of us and got into our seat. We just stared at them because we didn’t really know what to say. And I think the lady sensed that we were blown away by their rudeness, so she looked at us and said, “Your kids can sit on our laps. Will that help?”
And I was like, “Yeah, that will help. Their mother and I will just stay here while our kids ride on some strangers lap for two miles while we just wait here for the next tram to arrive. Yep. There’s no flaw in that plan, Einstein.”
Ok, I didn’t actually say that. But I’ll be honest, that’s what was in my heart at the time. I wish I could say that I had the attitude of a servant in this moment. I wish I had the attitude of, “I’m a follower of Christ, so I’m all about dying to myself. It’s not about me. You go ahead and take those seats.”
But that was not what was in my heart at the time. I had been fighting crazy crowds all night, and this tram was my way out. And these people were the only thing standing in my way. So at one point, I did say, “I didn’t realize that I would have to throw punches to get on this tram.” I actually did say that. And I made sure that I said it loud enough for this family to hear me.
So obviously I’m not where I need to be in my walk with Jesus. And when we all examine what is truly in our hearts, isn’t that what we see? We see that we’ve got a long way to go. We see times when we still really do want it to be all about us.
And that’s why Jesus’ words here are so uncomfortable. He said, “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” If you want to know what is really in your heart, just follow the money. That’s uncomfortable.
And then He called us to store up treasures in heaven. To invest in God’s Kingdom. How do you do that? One of the primary ways you do that is through the local church.
That’s why we’re not afraid to talk about giving and tithing here at Connect. Because Jesus has called us to invest in His Kingdom, and the church is the vehicle that brings His Kingdom into the world.
And we’re also not afraid to talk about it because Jesus said that our money reveals what is in our heart.
There’s a phrase you’ll hear a lot around Connect. The phrase is, “I love my church.” A lot of our people say it. I say it. We even had shirts with this phrase printed on them. And it gets me so pumped up when people say, “I love my church.”
But here’s the deal with that. If we aren’t generous toward our church, then that phrase is really just empty words. They really don’t mean anything.
And I know that might offend someone at first. I’ll be honest, it sounded offensive to me the first time I typed those words when I was preparing this message. So offensive that I almost deleted them.
But after I really thought through this, I stand by it. If I’m not generous toward my church, then I really can’t say that I love my church. You know why? Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Your money follows your heart. If I claim to love my church but I’m not generous toward my church, then I’m just kidding myself. My church doesn’t have my heart. If it did, it would also have my generosity.
Now, if you’re here just checking things out today, you need to know this. We don’t want your money. We’re not interested in your money. We don’t want something from you. We want something for you. This is for our partners, people who have said, “Yes, Connect is my church and I love my church.”
I know this is coming on strong for the first message of the year, but I’m not messing around here because I don’t want you to have a jacked up year. I don’t want you to have a jacked up life. And one of the fastest ways for your life to be jacked up is to make your life all about you. But generosity is the antidote for that.
That goes for everyone. That is true for our partners. And that’s true for the folks who are here just checking things out today. Generosity is the antidote for a life that is all about me.
When you are generous, you are making one of the loudest statements possible that your life is NOT about you. And when you live generously through your church, you are stating that you are part of a bigger mission. You are part of a vision and mission to connect people to Christ. You are saying that your heart is not centered on you. Your heart is centered on what Jesus’ heart is centered on: turning lost people into found people.
That’s why I’m not afraid to preach about this. The Biblical benchmark for generosity is the tithe, returning 10% of your income back to God. And I want to tell you something…Connect is going to take some bold steps this year. We are going to take some huge, visionary steps this year. But the only reason we’re going to be able to take those steps is because we have so many people who tithe. The only reason we’re going to take some huge steps this year is because we have so many people who really do love their church, and their generosity proves it. And I just want to say thank you. It’s so humbling for me to be your pastor. Your generosity demonstrates that you are bought into our mission and our vision, and that just fires me up. And it reminds me that nothing is going to stop us!
Now, for some of us, 10% is nowhere close to where we are right now. And that’s cool. I get that. But if you’re committed to living a life that is not about you, then generosity has to be central to that. And you can start taking steps to move toward a tithe. Maybe you need to plan it out so by this time next year, you are bringing the whole tithe to God.
And I want you to know this. Some people wouldn’t share this, but I think it’s essential that you know this. There’s no way that I would ask you to do something that I and our other leaders aren’t already doing. Every single staff member and every single elder here at Connect tithes. Your leaders love their church, and they back up that statement with their generosity. In fact, no one will ever even be considered for a leadership position in our church if they don’t tithe. And yes, we check. You know why? Because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one gets to lead our church if they don’t love our church. And love means generosity.
Jesus told us that our treasure is directly tied to our hearts, and that’s why it matters so much. Because that’s ultimately what Jesus wants. He wants our hearts. It’s part of surrendering to Him. It’s part of dying to ourselves and living for Him. Jesus wants to change our entire identity, but He can’t do that if we’re not willing to pay the price. If it has to be all about me, then I’ll never be generous. I’ll never truly give Jesus my whole heart.
And that’s what it all comes down to. Does Jesus have my heart? My whole heart? Or are there parts of my heart that are still pursuing what I want? What I desire? What parts of my life are still all about me?
Paul said it this way in the book of Philippians. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV)
To live is Christ. That means that my life is all about Jesus. It’s not about me. I am not the center of it. Jesus is, because to live is Christ.
It means that I am living for a mission instead of myself.
That’s what Jesus is calling us to. He’s calling us to leave our nets. He’s calling us to leave what we know and understand and trust. Following Jesus means living for a mission instead of myself.
And that changes how you see everything. It changes how you see your money. Your money just becomes a tool for your mission.
It changes how you see your family. It changes how you see your school. It changes how you see your job. And it changes how you see your church.
When I am living for a mission instead of myself, it changes how I see everything. But it starts by understanding that it’s not about me.
My mission is not about me. My mission is about the One who died for me.
That’s what Jesus is calling us into. It’s scary. It’s sacrificial. But it’s also how we live in the middle of God’s favor. And that’s where I want to be. And that’s where I want you to be. I don’t want you to have a jacked up year. I want you to have a year of living in God’s favor.
And we can be in God’s favor because of what Jesus did for us. He died on the cross for us. We had a sin debt that we could never pay, but when Jesus died on the cross, He stamped our debt “Paid In Full.” We are set free by His sacrifice. We can die to ourselves because He died for us.
That’s the freedom that we want you to know. We want you to know the freedom that we find in Psalm 103. “[The Lord] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. [Are you glad that’s true? Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t treat us fairly? Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve? Instead, we have this promise.]
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12, NIV)
That’s the hope that we have in Christ. And that’s why each one of us can declare, “It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus.”