Have you ever had to take your car to the shop because it was broken down? Just like when a mechanic diagnosis a car in need of repair, Jermaine Harrison teaches us five questions we can ask ourselves to diagnose and evaluate our relationship with God when it feels broken down.

Jermaine Harrison

About Jermaine Harrison

I was born on the tropical island of Jamaica, but only spent my first 6 years of life there before moving to another noteworthy island called St. Maarten. I became a... Read more

Message Transcript
Hello, Watermark, and friends watching online or listening. My name is Jermaine Harrison, and I get to serve on staff here at Watermark Dallas with the high school ministry. I want to start this message off by asking you a question. Is there anyone whose car is in the shop right now? If your car is in the shop, let me see your hand. Yeah, I see a couple of hands. The rest of them aren't here because their car is in the shop. I want to tell you a story that happened to me recently that I think will set up where we're going. To set that up, I just want you to know that through the kindness and generosity of friends in my life… I moved here to Dallas eight years ago to attend grad school, and most of you know if you're in grad school you don't have a lot of money. So I was gifted by a couple of friends not one but two free cars at different points over the last eight years. Unfortunately, both of those cars met their untimely demise through car trouble. The first car I was gifted was a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis. I called it "The Beast." It's amazing. Here's a picture of it after the tire exploded one Thanksgiving Day as I was driving down the highway. That car died. Then someone else gifted me another car. It was an amazing 2000 Toyota Solara. I loved this car. I called it the "Silver Surfer." Here's a picture of it being towed away after, literally, the engine exploded while I was driving down the highway. On both occasions, the cars, through car trouble, just died. Some of you might be shocked to know that I was single the entire time I had these two amazing cars. It's crazy. I don't understand it. Amazingly, the great news is that just about a month ago I got engaged. I think it's in large part to the new car I upgraded to. It's the car of everyone's dreams. It's the car that is fuel efficient and safe for the whole family and makes you feel like you're contributing to the environment of our world. It comes with four automatic doors with handles and air conditioning and four 100 percent rubber tires. It's an amazing cobalt blue 2008 Honda Civic. I love this car. But this car itself got me into some trouble back in January, back when it was kind of cold in Dallas, according to our terms. On two different occasions, I walked out of my house, getting ready to face the day and go to work or go about the errands I had for the day, and I went into the car, getting ready to start it up, just get warm before I drove off, and I turned the key, and nothing, not even a little whirr to make you think, "Oh, it's kind of trying to turn on." Just nothing. Twice. I'm not a car guy, so on both occasions I got my car towed to the mechanic, and they evaluated it and figured out what was wrong and fixed it. On one occasion it was my air conditioning and my battery. On the other occasion it was my starter that was completely gone. So on two occasions my car was dead. It was not working. It would not start. I took it in, it was evaluated, and I took action to fix it. The reason I tell you that story is this morning I'd love to talk to you about what to do when it feels like your relationship with God has broken down. I think this topic is so important for us to discuss, because if your relationship with God feels like it's broken down, if it's not in a place where it should be, all of life begins to feel broken down. It affects every area of your life. It starts off with not having a desire to read the Bible or if you spend time in the Word you feel like you're just reading words on a page. Then it moves into no desire to pray, and then it moves into no desire to meet with your Community Group, and then the next thing you know it begins to seep into the other areas of your life, and your marriage is no longer where you want it to be or your relationship with your kids isn't where you want it to be or you find yourself being discontent with your job or you find yourself over and over saying, "Man, I wish I had [fill in the blank]." Then all of a sudden you have no desire to serve. You wish you did, but you don't. You wish you had more of a desire to serve your neighbors, but you don't. Or that thing you confessed to your Community Group when you were like, "I want to gain victory over this…" You told them you would, and now you're not only tempted by it but giving into it over and over, and you just don't seem to care. Maybe you're here and you've just lost your joy in life. Maybe you're skeptical. Maybe you're cynical. Maybe last week you said, "Hey, God, I'm going to give you one more chance, and then I'm going to give up on Christianity." Maybe you're here and you are _this_ close to giving up on your relationship with God. If you resonate with any of that, I think God is trying to get your attention, and I think he's giving you this message to draw you back to him. Just like when you take your broken-down car into the mechanic and they diagnose it and figure out what's wrong and take action, I'm going to give you five questions to evaluate your relationship with God and hopefully give you some practical advice you can put into play. 1._ Am I seeking to know God or seeking to seem like I know him?_ Am I seeking to know God and build a real genuine relationship with him or am I just playing church and doing the things Christians are supposed to do so I can look the part? Jesus addresses this person who is pretending instead of seeking a genuine relationship with him. In one of his most amazing sermons in Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus addresses this very issue. Matthew 7:21-23. Here's what Jesus says. **"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day…"** What day? The day of judgment, the day when we stand before God. **"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"** Jesus is calling out those who are pretending or making it seem like they have a relationship with him when they don't. He says they're going to stand before him and say, "Hey, I went to church a bunch of times" or "I did all of these good things" or "I gave to this nonprofit" or "I supported this orphan. Isn't it enough? Look at my checklist, God." Jesus says God is going to say to that person, "I don't know you. I don't have a relationship with you." Another illustration of this happened a few months ago. Every year our staff here at Watermark goes on a retreat for a couple of days to realign and be encouraged and get ready for the year. Todd usually gives us some sort of mission to go on. We get put on teams, and we drive out to where we're going to have the retreat, and he gives us some mission. This year, the task was to create a 20-second video of random strangers, people you don't know, doing something awe-inspiring. You just need to convince some strangers to record a video of them doing something that makes people go, "Wow! That's crazy." So a group of people on staff went to NorthPark mall and went to Zales and said, "Hey, can we borrow an engagement ring, please?" They're like, "Sure you can." So they take this engagement ring and go out in NorthPark and find a guy and say, "Hey, will you be willing to propose to a random woman, a stranger, the next one we see?" He's like, "Of course I will." So he goes close to the escalator, if you've ever been at NorthPark. The unsuspecting woman is coming down the elevator, and this random stranger is standing in front of her, and as soon as she gets to the ground floor he gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. In the video you see her doing something like _this_. We asked our friends who did this video, "What was she saying?" They said she was saying over and over, "I don't know you. I don't know you. I don't know you." As she _should_ say, "I don't know you." The reason that's funny or the reason that's weird is this man was performing an external action that made it seem like there was a genuine relationship when there really wasn't. That's the point Jesus is making. There are some people maybe in this room or listening right now who are doing the things on the outside that make it seem like there's a genuine relationship when there really isn't. In contrast, I just told you a little while ago I got engaged a month ago. Here's a picture of me proposing to my now fiancée. You have a different reaction to this, because I wasn't walking up to a random girl and getting down on one knee. I was walking up to a girl I had dated for an entire year and asking her to be my wife, and praise God she said "Yes." The difference between those two scenarios is that in one case I knew her. I had a relationship with her, because I had spent time, because I had invested in the relationship. It was real. In the case at NorthPark, there was no relationship. Even if he knew facts about her, even if he went on Facebook and looked her up, he would have still gotten the same response, because that would have been really creepy. There's no relationship. God calls us, challenges us to seek to know him, not just know about him or seek to seem like we know him. The action associated with this question I want to challenge you with and encourage you with is the action of _cultivating a relationship with God_. You know this. What does it mean to cultivate a relationship with God? Spend time with him. Invest in that relationship through God's Word, God's Spirit, and God's people. God's Word instructs you. It informs you. It guides your life. His Spirit hopefully uses that information and that truth to affect every area of your life, and God's people should hopefully be encouraging you and challenging you to continue developing your relationship with God. If you're wrestling with, "Am I truly seeking God or just seeking to seem like I know him?" the action is to cultivate real genuine relationship with him. There may be some of you who are like, "I'm not seeking to know him, and I'm not even seeking to _pretend_ like I know him. I _don't_ know him." I'm glad you're listening. I'm glad you're here, and I hope you hear loud and clear that the God of the universe loves you so much he sent his Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die a perfect death and rise again on the third day, victorious over sin, death, hell, and the grave, and he calls you into a relationship with him. 2._ Am I humbly trusting in God or proudly trusting in myself?_ The difference between trusting in God and trusting in yourself is where your ultimate confidence lies. Pride shifts ultimate confidence from God and puts it on yourself. Pride says, "I've got this. I don't need God. I don't need anyone else." If you're sitting in the room and you're like, "Nah, I don't really struggle with pride," see if you can find yourself in this list of things that tend to mark people who struggle with pride. A prideful person waits for the other person to come and ask for forgiveness in a conflict. A prideful person seeks to maintain control and must have their way. They have to prove that they're right. They want to be sure no one finds out about their sin. They want to keep people at arm's length. A prideful person is concerned about what others think. They focus on the failure of others. They feel confident in how much they know. A prideful person is unapproachable, defensive when criticized, driven to be recognized and appreciated, works to maintain image and protect reputation. A prideful person has a hard time saying, "I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" A prideful person thinks of what they can do for God and compare themselves with others and feel deserving of honor. I could go on and on and on, and probably you heard something that you're like, "I've done that a time or two." Here's the thing. If pride goes unchecked in your life, it will continue to grow. It will continue to take over your life and ultimately destroy it. It's like an article I read a while ago about a Connecticut woman who was walking around with a 132-pound tumor in her body. That's like your average ninth-grade boy inside your body. That's what she was walking around with. She had surgery and it was successful, and you can imagine how different the quality of life was before and after this surgery where she removed this 132-pound tumor. Pride is a tumor that is in all of our hearts, and if it goes unchecked it will continue to grow and destroy our lives, but thankfully Peter gives us a remedy for pride. He gives us a remedy to show us how we can humbly trust in God. Here's what he says in 1 Peter 5:5-7: **"In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."** Peter is arguing that God's preferred way for you to experience humility and to humbly trust in him is by you choosing to do it. He says, "You clothe yourselves in humility toward one another." He says, "You humble yourself under God's mighty hand. You do it." It may seem weird that right after he says this he goes on to say, "And cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you," but really, it is so connected, because one of the most humble things you and I can do is pray. When we're filled with pride, when we think we can do it on our own, we carry these heavy burdens on our shoulders. We walk around with the stress and pain and anger and frustration and difficulty in life. You think you can keep it, you think you can handle it, but you're walking around with a 132-pound tumor, and the God of the universe is saying, "Throw it on me. Cast your anxiety on me." Why? Because he cares for you. So one of the most humble things you can do if you want to be a person marked by humility, clothed in humility, surrendered to God, is to pray, and not just pray rehearsed prayers or prayers that sound good. When I was a little kid, my brother and I would pray a prayer every time we ate a meal. The prayer kind of goes like this: "Thank you, Lord, for the world so sweet. Thank you for the food we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you, Lord, for everything. In Jesus' name, amen." When you say it over and over again and it gets ingrained in your mind, you start saying it without even thinking about what you're saying. Peter is saying the kind of prayer he wants us to pray, the prayer of humility, is not rehearsed, is not fake, is not just saying things that sound good, but it's real and honest and desperate prayers because the God of the universe cares for you. 3._ Am I choosing to be thankful or is complaining winning the day?_ Here's what Ephesians 5:20 says: **"…always…"** Not sometimes, but always. **"…giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."** Did you know one of the most repeated commands in Scripture is for us to give thanks? You can fact check me by reading the book of Psalms, 150 chapters, and you can look and see how many times we are challenged, we are encouraged to give thanks, to give glory, to offer praise to the God of the universe. Hundreds of times in Scripture we are called to give thanks. Do you know what verse _isn't_ in Scripture? A verse that encourages you or reminds you that you need to complain or be ungrateful. Do you know why? Because we don't need reminders to be ungrateful or to complain. It comes easily to us. It's easy to complain about your boss, but it's difficult to be thankful for your job. It's easy to complain about your family or some life circumstance, but it's hard to be thankful for your family. It's easy to complain about what you _don't_ have but hard to be thankful for what you _do_ have. Complaining and being ungrateful is easy, but being thankful takes discipline. The action associated with this question is to _practice being thankful_. We're going to do it right now. I'm going to give you an illustration I think will be super helpful and you can use in your own personal life. I serve on the high school team, like I said, and sometimes we go on team bonding trips or we go on road trips every now and then. Recently when we've gone on a few of these trips we have played a game in the car called the "movie star game." I want you to picture yourself in a car with five other people. There are six people in this car, and we're playing the movie star game. The way this game goes is you name a movie star… Let's pretend we're talking about Will Smith, because he's awesome. Every individual begins to think about a movie he was in. So the first person goes, and they're like, "Oh, _Hitch_." "Of course. Everyone knows he was in that." The next person goes, "_Ali_," and the next person goes, "_Concussion_." It goes on and on, and everyone continues to name one. Then someone is like, "Oh, _The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air_," and you're like, "That's not even a movie," and that person is out of the game. The game continues to go until only one person can name a movie Will Smith was in. It's a pretty fun game and takes up a lot of time. You can use it on your next road trip. Here's what I want to challenge you to do. Not play the movie star game (although you could) but to play the thankfulness game. What if the next time you sit down with your family, your kids, your wife, your Community Group, or your coworkers you play the thankfulness game? You set a timer for five minutes or three minutes or don't set a timer at all, and you say, "Guys, it's so easy to be ungrateful or to complain. Let's play this game and share things we are thankful for and just go around." Everyone shares something they're thankful for until you can't think of anything else. I guarantee you that game is going to go way longer than you would expect. Here's also what I know is true. You're hearing that and you're like, "Oh, that sounds pretty good, but I'm never going to do that." Probably 90 percent of you are like, "No." So I decided to go ahead and write down a list of things I'm thankful for to guilt trip you into playing the game. So here we go. I wrote down, "I'm thankful for God's continual work to change the hearts of men." I don't know if you were here this last week at any of our campuses, but over 200 people publicly declared they are with Christ, that they have placed their faith in him. It's amazing that God continues to add to the book of Acts in 2018 and change the hearts of men. In conjunction with that, I'm thankful I got the privilege to baptize my fiancée during that celebration. That was awesome. I'm thankful for God's financial provision in my life. I'm thankful for books written by others that stir my affections for Christ. I'm thankful for a body that continues to function well for the most part. I'm thankful for Torchy's Tacos chips and queso. Best chips and queso in Dallas. You heard it here first. I'm thankful for Trader Joe's unsweetened dried mango. Listen. If you've never had this, you need to try it. Someone somewhere in our world picked mangos for me. Then they dried them. They didn't add sugar or anything to it, and then they packaged it and put it in my local grocer's freezer or aisle, and I get to go and enjoy some amazing dried mango. I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for Frost Gelato in all its creamy goodness, filled with lactose and everything else you love in life. I'm thankful that at the end of _Avengers: Infinity War_, although all hope seems lost, you and I both know all hope is _not_ lost because there are many more movies to be made, a lot more of our money to be given to them, so I know they're going to figure it out somehow. I'm thankful for that. I could keep going, but being thankful is a great indicator of a relationship with God that is running well. 4._ Am I self-righteous?_ What I'm getting at here is this feeling of moral superiority, like when you compare yourself to someone else or their lifestyle and feel like you're better than them. If I'm honest, this is the check I need to continually ask myself, because it's so easy for me when I'm not abiding with the Lord to think I'm good, to think he's looking down at me like, "He's so awesome. Look at how many good things he's doing." It's because my story is different from some of… If you've been around here at Watermark, you've heard one of our teaching pastors, JP, talk about before he was a Christian he was in bars getting drunk, and then he stumbled in here one Sunday, hungover and smelling like smoke. I was at the front sitting and looking back and judging him and wondering when he's going to leave. I didn't really do that, but that's the kind of heart I have. I grew up going to church on Sunday morning and Sunday night and Wednesday evening prayer and Bible study and Friday night youth group and playing basketball at the church on Saturday, because you don't want to go to that nonbeliever basketball court over _there_. That was me. I was the straight-A student. I was a law-abiding citizen. I was a good kid. Here's the problem with mostly good kids: they don't think they need a Savior. They think, instead, they need a change in circumstances or maybe they need a little more time or a second chance or for their kids to behave or for that person to be out of their life or just a little bit more money or they think they need to upgrade from that Honda Civic. For me, I have to constantly remind myself I need a Savior. A few years ago, I started this practice, and I hope it's helpful to you. I wrote down a note on my phone. Basically, if I'm not abiding with Christ, if I'm not daily surrendering and submitting to him in humility, here's where I'm easily going to turn. There's a picture of it up on the screen. The title is reminding myself of my depravity. I said, "Apart from Christ, I am an impatient, attention-seeking, conflict-avoiding, recognition-craving, self-righteous, envious, lustful-thinking, perfectionistic, legalistic worry addict." That's me. If I'm not abiding with Jesus, that's what I'm going to do. When you see that list, do you think I have a reason to need a Savior? Absolutely. That list is a constant reminder to me that I need a Savior. Every now and then I go back and look at it and add more to it, not because I've gotten worse, hopefully, but because the Holy Spirit continues to work and transform my life. He begins to show me new things, like, "Hey, what about _this_? You're gaining ground in _this_ area, but what about _this_?" Here's the reality. Every single one of us has a list. Your list may not look like this at all. It may look completely different, but every one of us has a list. Even the apostle Paul himself had one. Here's what he says of himself and others in Titus 3:3-5: **"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy."** If you're here for the first time or you've thought of giving up on church or you've been out of church for a long time and you came back, the reason we can stand and sing about God's reckless love and all of these songs of praise and worship to him isn't because we're awesome. We're not awesome. We have a list, but the love of God has transformed our lives through the power of Jesus and through his work on the cross and his resurrection, and because of that we have a relationship with God, and we praise him that he continues to daily transform us. Here's the action associated with this. The action is to _reflect_. Here's a question to ask yourself. "What addictions, attitudes, or actions would I quickly run to if not for Christ?" Spend some time, stop, and really think about it. Think about all of the reasons you need a Savior. 5._ Am I being selfish?_ No, I'm not talking about your money. I'm talking about the most amazing resource you have if you claim to be a follower of Jesus. This last semester, our high school ministry small group studied through the gospel of Mark, and we're going to look at what happens in Mark, chapter 16. This is after Jesus has lived and performed miracles and taught and been crucified and is dead and buried for three days. On the third day, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome… These three women are going to the tomb to anoint Jesus with spices. They're talking, and they're like, "Man, how are we going to get the stone rolled away from the tomb?" When they walk up…spoiler alert…the stone is already rolled away. There's a young man sitting in there, an angel we find out, and here's what he says in Mark, chapter 16, verse 6: **"'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, "He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."'"** Look at verse 8. **"Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."** Because we have the other accounts of what happened in Matthew and Luke and John, we know these three women eventually get over their fear, and they're the first ones to share the gospel in all its fullness, that the Son of God, even though he was dead, is alive. He's no longer in the grave. They got to tell that to the disciples. They got to pass on the most amazing news someone could ever hear. The action for you and me related to this question is to _pass it on._ Don't let the healing and hope you have experienced because of Jesus and his transforming work in your life stop with you. This world is broken and sinful, and the answer is Jesus. Here are a couple of examples of how I've seen people do that recently. A while back I was at Whataburger with some friends, like most youth pastors do. The Whataburger waitress girl comes over with the condiments, and she's like, "Oh, do you want some spicy ketchup?" We're like, "Of course we want spicy ketchup." So she's standing there talking, and one of my friends begins to engage with the waitress. She says, "Hey, we're Christians and we're about to pray to the God of the universe." She somehow works the gospel into that one sentence and asks this waitress, "Hey, is there any way we can pray for you?" So she tells us things about her life, and then we pray for her. In that moment, in that 30 seconds-to-a-minute exchange, we got to engage with this random stranger and share with her the good news, the hope we have in Christ, and pray for her. It was that easy. It was that simple. Do you know what my friend _didn't_ do? My friend didn't go awkwardly and say, "You know what? There are some really nice lights in this Whataburger. Can I tell you about the light of the world?" She didn't do that. She wasn't like, "Man, those fries and that burger came from a very hot place. Let me tell you about someplace else that's really hot." No. She didn't do that either. She was just normal. Just a normal conversation with another human being. It was simple. Imagine if the next time you're at some sit-down restaurant and are about to pray, which you're going to do anyway, the waiter or waitress comes up and you say, "Hey, we're Christians and we're about to pray to the God of the universe whom we believe sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross and rise again for our sins and yours. How can we pray for you while we pray for this meal?" Done. You're sharing the gospel. You're letting that message of healing and hope continue on. Who knows what the Lord is going to do? They might be mad at you or they might be really receptive. Who knows? But your responsibility is to share. I was encouraged by that, but I was even more encouraged by one of our high school students when I heard this story this past week. She started a relationship with a friend of hers back in the third grade and continued to invite this friend to come to different activities at church with her. Over the years, this friend continued to come and hear about Jesus. Then the friend moved away and moved back to Dallas, and when the friend moved back the student continued to invite her to small group and to church and to all of these different things. Last week, at the baptism service, that friend publicly declared her faith in Christ and was one of the over 200 people who were baptized. Part of the reason was one friend who knew her and had a relationship with her just continued to invite her. That's another way you can continue to pass on the message of healing and hope. Just invite someone. Tell them, "Come and see our Christ. Come and see my church. Come and see what we're all about." That's another amazing way you can not let the healing and hope you've experienced stop with you. Pass it on. In conclusion, when your relationship with God feels broken down, evaluate it and take action. The questions are, "Am I seeking to know God or seeking to seem like I know him? Am I humbly trusting in God or proudly trusting in myself? Am I choosing to be thankful or is complaining winning the day? Am I self-righteous? Am I selfish?" When I took my car in back in January to evaluate it and to take action, I had a number in my mind of how much it would cost. So when the mechanic calls me back and is saying all of the things that need to be fixed and he tells me the price, immediately I'm like, "Are you telling me the price of fixing my car or of buying your entire store and all of the cars in it? Because this doesn't sound right." It cost me a lot of money. Immediately, days after, one of my coworkers, who you've heard from recently, David Penuel… His car broke down. Don't worry. He drives an amazing 2003 Honda Accord. His car breaks down, and in that moment I was able to allow him to use my car. It was a blessing and an encouragement to him. Here's the thing. God calls you and me to evaluate on a regular basis our relationship with him, and not just evaluate it and see what's wrong and leave it but to take action. Taking action is going to cost you time and energy and resources, but I'm telling you, the payoff is huge. The payoff is a renewed joy in your relationship with God. The payoff is blessing in your own life and blessing in the lives of others. Let me pray that you would. Lord, thank you for your Word, and thank you for the fact that you care more about our relationship with you and your relationship with us than we ever could. Thank you for the fact that you're patient and humble and kind toward us and that you call us into a real relationship with you. I pray for every person listening that they would ask these questions of their own relationship with you that would hopefully lead to a more fruitful and meaningful relationship with you. I pray for someone in this room or someone listening who has never started a relationship with you, that today would be the day your Holy Spirit draws them toward you. We thank you, God, that you love us and you care so much about us that you sent your Son to die on the cross and to rise again for our sins so we can have a reconciled relationship with you. Thank you that you love us. Thank you that you care for us. Help us to evaluate our relationship with you and take action. In Jesus' name, amen.