We are in the middle of a series called Cult Fiction, and through this series we are learning about various cults such as Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons. This weekend we shifted gears a bit as Pastor Miles was not able to teach because of illness, David Cooper taught this week about how to counter the culture we live in with the truth of Jesus Christ.
He began this weekend's message talking about a movie that was released a few years back that was all about random acts of kindness. The movie was called Pay it Forward. It made 10 million dollars on its opening night. The whole film was about how one random act of kindness can start a chain reaction and this is a concept that inspires people. This movie didn't introduce this concept though, rather the originator of it was Jesus, and many Scriptures throughout the Gospel demonstrate this truth.
Have it Your Way
If we could define our culture with one word, it would be selfish. We all tend to feel like we deserve only the best. We are all about paying ourselves, and paying ourselves first.
Instead of conforming to a culture of selfishness, we must forget about paying ourselves first, and instead pay it forward. Jesus is the greatest example of this, and there are four ways to pay it forward, Jesus style.
The Upside Down Kingdom
Jesus lived the paradigm of paying it forward. He wasn't about living loud and making Himself known, but rather He lived a quiet and humble life. He found true happiness in loving others, which in our society today is exactly the opposite of what is considered true happiness.
Mark 10:42-45 states, But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
There are three keys to living in the upside down Kingdom that Jesus demonstrated. It all centers on the idea that to receive what you want in life, you must first give it away. These three keys are:
- Love, rather than be loved.
- Serve, rather than be served.
- Lead, rather than be led.
If we want to impact our culture for the cause of Christ we need to love, serve, and lead others first. If we are paying it forward Jesus style, it is all about Him, and not about us.
One for All All for One
Mark 12:29-31 states, Jesus answered him, the first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
John 13:34-35 states, a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
From these Scriptures we see that Jesus stressed the importance of loving one another. Jesus only asked two things of His followers, to love one another, as He loves us. Jesus doesn't ask anything of His followers that He hasn't given away first.
We show love in different ways. We can show it through physical touch, or a specific action, or through words. However we show it, it is important that we do, because it is the "one for all" principle. We need to love others as Christ loves us. It is one love for all people.
David Cooper shared a story of one incident in which he was speaking at a high school, and towards the end of his presentation, he implemented a tool he likes to use when he speaks, and that is making eye contact with specific people in the audience. At the end he started looking at specific people and telling them that he loved them. One girl in particular who was dressed in the gothic style stood up and said, "No you don't," when he looked at her and told her that he loved her.
This was much to his surprise. Later after the presentation he had a conversation with this girl and she told him that at sixteen years old he was the first person ever to tell her that she was loved. She went on to tell him how she had to protect herself from her drunken father who abused her on a daily basis. On that same day she accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. This is a reminder of how love is the essential element to change lives and transform our culture.
One love is for all people, and all for one is a reminder to love God with and for all of your life. As the Scriptures state our purpose in life is to love God with all of our soul, with all of our heart, and with all of our strength, and to love others as we love ourselves.
Be One of Many
In our culture we are all about individualism. We all want our own specific identity. However, Jesus was more concerned with a corporate mentality. This brings us back to the last style of paying it forward through spreading the love. What are we giving people? As followers of Christ our purpose should be to share Christ's love at all times.
John 17:23 states, I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Are we trying to be individuals on our own quest, or are we trying to see how our lives are counting to build up God's Kingdom? There are three questions in which we can evaluate ourselves to see if we are being one of many.
- Am I helping to mold others in God's image?
- Am I making a way to a relationship with Christ possible?
- Am I moving others towards His likeness with my life?
As a sports fan, if you were to wear a Lakers Jersey, with Shaquille O'Neal's name on the back it would be clear that you are a Lakers fan and you support that particular player. Many of us may sport a favorite jersey of our favorite player from our favorite sports team, but how willing are we to wear Christ's Name, or a cross for more than a fashion statement?
One of No Reputation
Jesus didn't live to make Himself look good. He didn't do things to better His reputation. Instead He hung around with people who needed Him, even if it didn't look good.
Luke 7:36-39 states, then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, this Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.
Often times we get so caught up in how we look, or what people will think about us, we forget our purpose. We miss out on opportunities to spread the love, because we are so concerned about ourselves.
The Answer is the Absence of Pride
Jesus paid it forward in His own style. He had a clear focus, He was free from obligation, committed to His priorities, and He was a friend to the friendless. Why does it seem so difficult to take on this mission of paying it forward? The answer is simple. It is because of pride. We all battle it. The absence of pride is the answer to overcome our own selfishness, and pay forward the love of Jesus Christ to others.
Proverbs 29:23 states, pride ends in humiliation. Whether it is dealing with cults, or the culture around us we can see lives transformed when we combine our actions with God's love and pay it forward Jesus style!