Good morning! If you’re new here at Hope City, I want to welcome you! I know that you could be anywhere right now on a Sunday morning, and you’ve chosen to spend part of your Sunday with us, and I want to say thank you! In fact, I’d love to invite you to stick around right after service today, for something we call Pizza with the Pastor. Really, I just like making people say Pizza with the Pastor. I wanted to have them say “Pepperoni Pizza with the Pastor”, but I just thought that would be cruel. Seriously, though, we’ve got some pizza for you right after service, and we want to spend about 30 minutes together… I’d love to get to know you and give you a chance to get to know Hope City a bit more.
Well, we’ve been moving through a series that we’re calling Walls….
Walls are helpful in keeping people safe, in keeping the elements out…. This past week there was a noise outside of my bedroom window that sounded like a bobcat was eating a sand hill crane. It was the loudest noise I have ever heard. And I poked my head outside and after not seeing anything I ran back inside like a little kid, afraid of whatever was out there in the dark. I ran behind the safety of my 4 walls. I was grateful for the walls in my life!
But walls also can keep us from experiencing good things too! Have you ever been somewhere and thought to yourself, UGH, if I could just get over there that would be amazing. They force you to stand off in a distance and just watch from a far.
Several years ago, our family took a vacation to Rhode Island for a week. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Rhode Island or not, but it is a beautiful place on the Atlantic Ocean. The town that we were staying in was an old town with a lot of old history…. And one of the things that this town had was something called the cliff walk. It’s pretty self-explanatory really. A several mile walkway along the edge of the water.
Well, there is something in my spirit that is drawn to water, and drawn to adventure. I love everything that has to do with the water. I love Fishing, Boating, Skiing, Wakeboarding… etc. If it’s on the water I love it. Well, here in Rhode Island, this cliff walk put me directly next to the source of my greatest joy, the Water, and yet… there was a wall that prevented me from exploring and experiencing any of it.
It was Rhode Island’s way of shot blocking my joy, my dreams of being down by the water exploring!
Maybe there is something that stands between you and where you want to be, or what you want to experience. In week one we talked about the mess that’s under the cushions of our couch… or what’s really stuck deep down in the nitty gritty parts of our lives. Sometimes it’s this mess that stands in our way. Last week we talked about how these things can actually become the studs that frame up the walls in our life.
If we’re looking for freedom in our life, the kind of freedom that Jesus intends for you to have, then we need to take a little deeper look at what’s going on in our life. Right? We’ve got 2×4’s just waiting to be put up, or whole rooms of 2×4’s that have already been put up…
• Parenting Heartache
If we’re not careful the messy parts of life can sneak in and unknowingly put up walls around us, or our heart. We can become cold and callous because of our past experiences. We use certain phrases to identify our emotional response to the dream that has turned into a nightmare in our own life.
• Life is Unfair! You work hard, late nights, long weekends, and somehow you still get passed over for the promotion.
• People are only going to hurt you! Even well intentioned people will say things that hurt us and leave us feeling scarred.
• Yesterday is gone! You can look back and wish that we didn’t party your way through your 20’s. Or wish you saved more money….
• I’m not in control! We can do all the right things at work, at home, or even in faith, and things like cancer or disease invade your life and shake everything up.
When we find ourselves in a position that is uncomfortable, or uncertain, what do you do?
You’re not the first person to have found yourself staring at a missed dream, or opportunity. And you certainly won’t be the last. In fact, I want to invite you to turn in your Bible’s to Genesis chapter 3 today. That’s found on page 2 of your Bible. Listen, if you’re new to church, or finding your way back to church, this is one of those moments you can role in and feel confident. Genesis is the first book of the Bible and Moses is credited as the author of Genesis, having written down the story of God so that we would understand the heart of God.
Here in Genesis 3 we’re going to find two people who are really not that much different than ourselves. Let me set the scene for you, God had just created the world, and then he created the first man, and woman. God placed them in this beautiful garden with a rich variety of animals and plants. I imagine it would be a bit like going downtown to the Selby Gardens.
Well, while they are there, God gave them a boundary. One guardrail which was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And everything was good until the serpent, the devil appeared to Eve. And look what happened in verse 1.
1“He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’.” 4”You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Here’s two people, Adam and Eve, who are living life… They’re living the dream right? They are in the garden of Eden, the most perfect place that God has designed, and the snake rolls in and says, Did God really say that? Challenging what God has said about their life. And then he twists the truth… God is really just trying to hold out on you… He knows that your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like Him! The seeds of deception are being sown right here.
The foundations for the greatest walls that separate us from God are built on lies. In fact, (Point 1)Satan targets your mind, and his weapons are lies. Don’t kid yourself, that the the Goal of Satan is to separate you from God. To cause a divide to occur, a wall to be put up between what God says about your life and what is true about your life.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Satan just twisted it a little. Did God really say that? Does God really want you to be happy? If He really wanted you to be happy, why would He say that? This is why Satan targets your mind, and his weapons are lies.
I just want you to notice something. It took evil incarnate to deceive Eve to sin, literally the darkest force in the universe. All it took Adam was a naked woman offering him fruit! And nothing has changed in marketing! It’s still the same stuff, just centuries latter… We buy into the lie that we’re going to be living the dream if only we had the latest and greatest… After sharing my deodorant story with you last week, I do appreciate all the reminders to apply deodorant. And yet, what I appreciate even more than that, are all the people who said, I’ve done that too. (The Man Your Man Could Smell Like Video) Old Spice is trying get you to think that you can be just like this if you “Man UP” and use Old Spice. This is a marketing lie. We know this, and yet we still fall for these tricks. They are targeting your mind in the same way that Satan does. It’s the “What if…”
See what happened here? Adam and Eve bought the lie, and sinned. God told them the way that would lead to life and real joy and instead they chose their own way of doing things. This is sin! (Definition)Sin is living on your own, for your own. It’s when we chose to do things our way vs. God’s way. Sin disrupts us from the perfect relationship we have with God, others, and the world.
The results of sin started to show up with Adam and Eve… Look at verse 7…
7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Sin had let in shame. They looked at themselves for them first time as deficient, something was wrong with us. They were naked. So they had to cover up their nakedness. This is what shame does. See, there is a difference between guilt and shame.
Godly guilt actually leads us to repent, or to turn to God for help and healing. Guilt says I made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake. There is something that is fundamentally wrong with me.
So Adam and Eve tried to hide their shame with leaves and twigs. We hide our shame with nice clothes, nice cars, and big salaries. Because we want to look better than we are, we will mask our mess with these things.
Well while Adam and Eve were busy hiding their shame, God came looking for them, and they hid because of their shame. Shame if not dealt with will leave you looking for ways to hide from God. You’ll build walls to prevent God from seeing you, or to keep His Holy Spirit away from you.
Then God called out to Adam and Eve and said vs. 11
“Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
We see the blame game start right up. Do you see this? Adam blamed two people in one sentence. This is fantastic! He blamed God first, and then he blamed the woman. It was the woman YOU PUT HERE WITH ME! She gave me some. But it didn’t stop with Adam. God asked Eve the same thing. And she does no better… She says,
13“The Serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
From this story we see a very simple formula. Sin+Shame=Blame. From the beginning, Blame is hard wired into us. We are constantly looking for someone else to pin the cause of our shame on. Why? Because somehow we believe that when we blame, we will eliminate our pain. This is another lie. Blame doesn’t eliminate pain, it delays it. (Pt.2) Blame keeps you in pain. When we blame, we don’t allow ourselves to focus on the future.
We don’t have to teach anyone this. We blame the democrats, we blame the republicans, we blame everyone for anything.
In my house, there will be at least one conversation every week where we step into a disagreement between two of my kids and one of them says, “But she was looking at me.” Instead of saying, Sorry… I shouldn’t have done that, or said that, it’s BUT SHE WAS LOOKING AT ME! Blame keeps you looking backwards rather than allowing you to move forward.
You can’t walk into the future while keeping your eyes set on the past. It is a sure way to incur more pain! In fact, blame doesn’t actually make us feel any better in the long run. What really happens is that blame prevents us from actually healing and it causes us even greater damage in our current relationships.
It’s easier to blame God when you lose your job, blame your partner when the relationship is struggling or blame the kids when they are acting up. It’s so easy to blame others!
This past week I had the most remarkable conversation with an individual. I got a phone call out of the blue from a person who is struggling through life. Halfway through the conversation I had to stop the person and say, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. My name is Peter. I feel weird having this deep of a conversation without even knowing your name. The person went on to tell me deep pain that they have in their life. The choices they had made…. There is anger, there is hurt, there is abuse in their past. And probably to some degree, also in their present.
And here was the remarkable thing… I’ll never forget this sentence they said. “Most of my pain has been caused because I walked away from God and the way that He wanted me to live my life. When I was in my early 20’s. I ran from God. I ran from the church.”
This floored me. The level of honesty that took to say is incredible. And let me remind you that I don’t know this person. We’ve never met face to face… I’m praying that’s gonna change. I stopped and invited them to come to church. They said, you don’t want me in your church. I wouldn’t fit in. I said “try me, you should see some of my friends…” I’m not going to stop inviting them to church. There are people hurting all around us who need to experience the love and healing that Jesus brings to their world. This is why we’re doing everything within our power to help you invite your friends to Easter. Did you know that 70% of the people you invite on Easter will say yes to coming with you? That’s a statistical fact, done by the Barna research group.
When you are broken and stuck playing the blame game, you can’t heal. The only way we can truly heal is by running to Jesus. By turning from our sin, from our shame, and running to Jesus. We fix our eyes on Jesus and run into His arms. But we have to stop blaming God and others for my circumstances!
Blame keeps you in pain. It keeps you in bondage, and it keeps you stuck in the past when God wants to bring you into a better future. You need to decide today, that you’re not going to blame anymore. You’re not going to play that game. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to heal.
But here’s what also has to stop… when we stop blaming, we also need to stop victimizing our self and others. We need to stop making it all about us and all about what others haven’t done for us.
What did Adam do? He painted himself to be a victim! Eve did the same thing. It wasn’t my fault… This horrible thing happened to me!
Have you ever met someone who always has a horrible life? You know, the person who you hesitate to even ask how they’re doing when you see them… there is always something going on! They are always the victim, right? And you just want to say, what part of this do you own?
This is what I call UnderOwnership. If we’re constantly a victim and looking at our lives through this lack of personal responsibility for your freedom and growth, you’ll find that your identity begins to be shaped by the hurt that you’ve experienced.
• The reason I use porn is because my wife isn’t sexually available to me. It’s her fault that is pushing me to do this.
• My boss is the reason that I drink so much. I’m under a lot of stress and I need to just numb out, and chill.
• It’s not my fault I overeat. You don’t know the stress that I have from my kids and work.
• My parents had a horrible marriage and modeled a bad relationship for me so I can’t do intimacy.
When we blame shift, we under own and we refuse to take responsibility. Some of this may be true, but how you respond to things is within your control. You may not be able to change these things, but you can change your response.
But there is the flip side to this coin as well. There is a group of people that I call the Own-It-Alls. Their life is defined by control and denial. They are racked with guilt and shame and their life is weighed down by all their mistakes and maybe they’ve destroyed a marriage or hurt their kids or their co-workers. Own-It-Alls focus so much on the problem and because they can’t figure it out they assume that it must be them. They were the reason… they were the cause. And they just run around trying to say sorry or control every situation. And all the while they deny the fact that they have been hurt by others and have hurt themselves.
I have a friend whose kids are making some really poor decisions in life. And she is beside herself. She’s a classic Own-It-All. She has told me how it’s all her fault that her kids are the way they are… And I have said to her on several occasions, this is not your fault. You cannot carry this guilt with you. You cannot carry this shame with you. And yet, she continues to fight against insecurity and depression. You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.
So whether you are an under owner or an over-owner there is a bigger question at play here. One which we have to ask. This question is found in John 5, where Jesus interacts with a man that has been crippled for almost 40 years. Last week, Jesus healed a man born blind, and today, Jesus is back at it but this time with a man who is unable to walk.
John 5 says this,
6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
I honestly used to read this and think, this has to be the dumbest question that Jesus has ever asked. I mean come on! Why would this dude even be there if he didn’t want to get healed. Plus, you’re God, shouldn’t you know this already? But then again, this is the question that Jesus asks all of us. Do you want to get well?
When we look under the couch cushions, when we stare at the walls we’ve built… Jesus -pauses and says, Do you want to get well?
Because there is part of us that is comfortable with the mess. We are okay with what we’re comfortable with right? When the dishes pile up in the sink, we’re good with it so long as they aren’t spilling onto the counter. We’re okay with the dirt in the corners of our house because it’s our dirt. Right?
This week I was in a school secretary’s office and she said, “Come on in and take a seat. I used to apologize for the mess, and tell people it’s never really like this. But the truth is, it’s always like this. And so’s my house I guess.” We’ll, okay! Great to meet you as well.
We get accustomed to our own mess, and actually get comfortable in it. This guy has been laying here for almost forty years, he’s always relied on the pity of others, crawled on his hands and knees to get around. And now, HEALING is here.
He says to Jesus,
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” John 5:7
This guy doesn’t even answer Jesus of Do you want to get well. But he blames two people. No one helps me. And secondly, someone else cuts the line! You know people like that? No one helps me, and if they do, they do it the wrong way.
He’s have a pity party in front of Jesus. He reveals just how crippled he really is. He’s crippled on the outside, and on the inside too. Physically and Emotionally. So Jesus gives this man a gift and a choice.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. 8-9
Jesus didn’t try to argue with this guy about who was to blame. Jesus just said: Pick up your stuff and wlak. And now the guy has a choice. He can ignore Jesus and stay in the life that he’s always lived, and do what he’s always done and gotten the same results he’s always gotten. He can cope with the pain, and blame it all away and explain how it’s someone else’s fault that he can’t get healed. Or he can step into what Jesus asked him to do and be obedient.
For every person in this room who is suffering or in pain, I want you to hear me say this clearly, your pain is real. I’m not minimizing it. It is powerful, but God is even greater than your pain. God wants to do something new in you! And it is going to require you to make a choice. In fact, for every person in this room, (pt 3)You have a response ability. That’s right. Every single one of you has the ability to choose the way that you respond to pain, to hurt, to heartache. And it’s going to require courage.
Just like this man who Jesus healed, it’s going to require courage.
You know what it means when he picked up his mat. It meant that he owned his disability, which had become his identity. He’d been blaming people for years. When he picks up his mat, he is owning his junk, his failure, his excuses because God has a better future for him, but he’s got to get off the mat, roll it up and move beyond it.
God wants to take your mess and make it into a message, turn your test into a testimony, but you’ve got to pick up your mat, and move forward.
But don’t miss this. This man didn’t pick up his mat with his own power, but with the power of Jesus. The man was right, on his own he could do nothing. But with the power of God, he can do anything! There was no wall that could prevent him, no past that could keep him down, no shame that would prevent him from breaking through to experience what God had intended for him.
You have a response ability. You can choose today to continue to wallow in your self-centeredness and shift the blame from one thing to another. Or you can say Jesus, I want to be healed. I own my story! I own my response to my jealousy. I own my response to my anger, or bitterness. I own my response to my Divorce.
I—Own—It! I take responsibility for my response.
Some of you are in need of a moment today to move forward. Your past is holding you back. Your bitterness is causing you to play the blame game.
God can take your brokenness and your pain and He can not only put it back together, but He can create something beautiful from it.
But you might need to say I Own It.
Today, if you want to see God breakthrough the walls in your life, to see God bring to light the dark places in your life would you take a step today by choosing to quit blaming God. Quit blaming others. Quit letting your past define you, but let it refine you.
IN this moment right now, I’m going to give you a few seconds of silence. I want to give you an opportunity to pray on your own… Maybe you need to ask God to forgive you for the walls you’ve put up around your heart. Maybe you need to ask God to give you strength to forgive others around you. Or maybe you need to ask God to give you the courage to pick up your mat and walk.
Take these moments to pray quietly on your own.