Do you sacrificially steward your life so that lost people can be introduced to Jesus? Picking back up in our sermon series 1 Corinthians, John Elmore shows us how to order our lives for the purpose of Christ, in the plot twists of Christ, and by the power of Christ.
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Repentance, Allegiance & Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Do you sacrificially steward your life so that lost people can be introduced to Jesus? Picking back up in our sermon series 1 Corinthians, John Elmore shows us how to order our lives for the purpose of Christ, in the plot twists of Christ, and by the power of Christ.
Blake Holmes: We're making our way through the book of 1 Corinthians. Next week, we're going to jump ahead to the pivotal chapter. If you're going to study the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you have to know you have to go to 1 Corinthians 15. So, that'll be Easter next weekend. I'm imploring you to please invite your friends to our Good Friday service and next weekend on Saturday and Sunday as we celebrate Easter. We'll look at 1 Corinthians 15 then.
As you know, we're going through 1 Corinthians, and we're in chapter 4 this week. So, if you have your Bibles, turn to chapter 4. I want to read this chapter, and then I want to pray for us, and then I'm going to ask John Elmore to come up here and teach this passage to us. I know you're going to be really encouraged.
Just by way of reminder, for each book of the Bible, I like to title each book with just a word and a short outline. It helps me to recall what each book is about. The key word for 1 Corinthians is simply correction. It is a correction of sorts to the church at Corinth. You're reading a letter from Paul, which has a specific historical, theological, cultural context.
He's writing, and he's addressing the divisions that go on within the church in those first four chapters. Then he addresses what I'd call the disorders of the church, of sexual immorality and lawsuits amongst believers, and then many of the difficulties around spiritual gifts and the role of women in the church and the timing and significance of the resurrection, amongst other things.
We're picking up in chapter 4. I want to read this whole chapter. You're going to see that Paul has some… There's some sarcasm in his tone, but it's a very direct passage in dealing with the conflict going on in his day and the criticism he and the apostles are receiving, where people are dismissing their ministry and their message. So he addresses that. Let's look at chapter 4.
"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!" You can sense the sarcasm.
"For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?" Let's pray.
Father in heaven, it is good to gather with the body of Christ and to sing, not just beautiful melodies, Lord, but the truths of Scripture that we know how the story ends, and we know how the story ends because of Jesus Christ, fully God, fully man, who entered into our world, born of a virgin, without sin, lived a perfect life, entered triumphantly into Jerusalem to declare peace that only he can provide, that this world could never provide on its own.
We all sang, "Hosanna! Hosanna!" only later to turn and to betray you. Father, we marvel at your mercy and your grace, that this didn't just happen randomly but was foretold before the ages of time, Ephesians 1 tells us, all according to your plan. Three days later, Jesus rose again, defeating sin and death, and because of that we have hope, and because of that we sing.
Lord, there was much that divided the Corinthian church. There was conflict and division. Lord, I know there's much in every church and Community Groups and homes that works to divide us, but by your Spirit, by your grace, and by your mercy, I pray, Lord, that those things which are much greater that unite us… I pray, Lord, that you'd unite our hearts around the centrality of the gospel and the resurrection message.
Father, I thank you for men like John Elmore, who's not only a gifted teacher but who lives what he says he believes, and because of that I'm blessed. So, Lord, would you just speak through him this morning? Would you prepare our hearts? Would you help us, Lord, to be attuned to what it is you want us to apply to our lives, that we would hear much more than just a talk but a message from you, that you'd help us to lay aside distraction. We pray all of these things by the power of your Spirit and the name of your Son Jesus, amen.
John Elmore: Good morning, church. Good to be with you all. Just to start out, I want to tell you that for the last two weeks, I have been suffering and enduring intense persecution. I've been on YMCA campouts with kindergartners and second graders. I didn't know if I was going to make it, but here I am today. On the campout with my kindergartner… It was a father/daughter one (that's with Penny), and then with Hill, the second graders.
On the father/daughter one with the kindergartners, we were at Possum Kingdom at the YMCA camp out there, which is a really funny name for a place. If you have a lake and you're trying to sell homes… I don't know what marketer was like, "Let's call it Possum Kingdom, the place where all of the opossums reign." It's like, "Was Skunk Holler taken? Why that?"
But we go to Possum Kingdom, and at Possum Kingdom there is an island. It's called Devil's Island. So, we load up in these pontoon boats and go across to Devil's Island, all of the dads and their daughters. We get there, and it's this big bluff you hike up. It sounds dangerous. It wasn't. As we walk 30 yards up this island mountain thing, I see a little boy. It's like daughters all around, and here's this 6-year-old kid. He has a stick and is kind of scratching the rocks and the dirt.
I walk up to him, and I'm like… Because we get there. We're just on the trail. No one is there. It's just a little boy. I'm like, "Where is his dad? Maybe his dad went to use the restroom or something. What's going on?" We're sitting there watching. We're waiting for the other dads and daughters to come. I'm like, "I don't think that kid has a dad here with him." So I go, and I get down beside him. I'm like, "Hey, buddy." He doesn't even look up. He's like, "Hey," just shaky voice.
I'm like, "Are you here with your daddy? Is your daddy here?" He's like, "No." I'm like, "Okay. Hey, I'm a daddy too. This is my daughter. This is Penny. We're here to hike. I tell you what. I'm not going to leave you until we find your daddy. Okay? I'm going to stay right here, and you're safe with me, and this is okay. What's your name?" He shares it. I say, "Okay. What's your daddy's name?" He shares it.
I say, "Do you know his phone number by any chance?" He's like, "Yeah. Two…" I'm like, "214?" He's like, "Yeah. 68…" He shares the number. I'm like, "Okay. I'm going to call your daddy right now. Hang on. Yeah, hi. This is John Elmore. I'm on Devil's Island. I have your son. I need you to come with 1,000 unmarked bills in a black duffle bag or you'll never see him again." Last week, TA talked about the movie Taken, and I just straight-up put someone through a real-life Taken.
The person on the other end of the phone goes, "Bro, I have no idea what you're talking about." Like, someone is in counseling right now, because they're like, "And then the guy called and said he had my son." They're like, "Honey! Check for Junior in the backyard! Someone has got him on Devil's Island!" It was so horrible. I was like, "Okay. Hey, bud, that wasn't your daddy. Do you know your mom's number?" He shared some number, and it went to voicemail.
I didn't have the heart to tell the mom, because the mom was either going to freak out or that husband was never going to hear the end of it. Like, "You lost our child on Devil's Island!" I was like, "I'm just going to let that go to voicemail." I was like, "I tell you what. Hey, why don't you come with us. I have a bottle of water. Are you thirsty?" He was like, "Yeah." I was like, "Here you go. Have some water." He went, "It's okay. I've had my shots. I even had a booster." I was like, "Okay."
He literally just gulped it. I mean, he might as well have crushed it on his forehead and slammed it down. I was like, "That's the only water my daughter and I had for the whole time here at Devil's Island, but, okay." At that point, my next 30 minutes… What I was hoping to do and wanting to do was hold hands with my daughter, go on this hike, have a special time. I'm now spending more time with this little boy than I am my own daughter. She has run off ahead with her friends, and I'm talking to him about who his favorite character is on PAW Patrol, trying to make him forget that he's separated from his dad.
I think it's what we do every day. I think every single day we're walking by lost people who don't have their Father. They're sitting lost, and I think most often we're just walking right by them, like, "That person looks sad. They look kind of strange. Why are they so angry? What's their problem?" We walk past versus being interruptible by the Lord who has providentially placed us right in the path of that lost individual, separated from the Father.
So, today, as we read in 1 Corinthians 4, I want to lead us in a time of what it looks like to order your life, your entire being, for the purpose of God to reach the lost. Last week, this is what TA taught about: with Easter coming, to make invitations, to reach the lost among you, even unto the nations, that all people would come to be reconciled to the Father through the Son, as he taught from 2 Corinthians 5.
We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ. He sent us to seek and save the lost. The question is…Will we have a wasted life by playing it safe or will we live for the purposes of Christ through the plot twists of Christ in the power of Christ? Those are the three things we will talk about in 1 Corinthians 4: living for the purpose of Christ by the plot twists of Christ in the power of Christ.
So, let's begin. Living for the purpose of Christ. This is 1 Corinthians 4:1-2. "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." What are the mysteries of God? The mysteries of God are the Scriptures revealed in the person of Christ, that Jesus came to save sinners, to reconcile them to the Father…all of the truths of God revealed now. They're stewards of the mysteries of God.
"Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful." Later, in verse 16… That's Paul talking about him and Apollos. "We're servants of Christ. We're faithful stewards." Then in verse 16, he's going to say, "And I urge you, be imitators of me." Paul is saying, "This is my job description. I'm a servant of Christ, faithful steward, and actually, it's your job description too. You are to imitate me as I follow Christ." This is our focus. Your sole focus is soul focus. Your sole focus in life is the souls of others. That's why the Lord has you where he has you.
In case you're like, "Nah. Actually, my sole focus is stay-at-home mom. My sole focus is my business career. My sole focus is getting into college. My sole focus is making good grades and getting the team and getting the girl. That's my sole focus…" The Lord is like, "No, your sole focus is the souls of others, that you would focus on them, because there are lost children all around, that they'd be reconciled to the Father."
Right now they're children of wrath, and he's like, "I need you to make them children of the Father through the Son." I was at a restaurant recently with friends. (This is amazing.) I'm sure you've been to a restaurant sometimes where you're like, "How's the caprese salad?" and they're like, "Oh, best you've ever had."
"Okay. How's the caesar? Does it have too much anchovy?"
"No. We have the best caesar in town."
"Okay. How's the pizza?"
"Our crust is the best."
At this point in time, listening to the waitress, I'm like, "I actually don't believe anything you say. You're trying to upsell me everything. What's good and bad? I'm trying to navigate this." Recently, at this restaurant, we had this waitress, Stephanie, who was amazing. Someone goes, "Hey, how's the chicken fried steak?" She goes, "Well, it used to be terrible. They had frozen patties, and they'd just thaw them out and cook them, but now they actually make them fresh. So, it was bad. Now it's actually okay." It was like, "I like you."
Someone else was like, "Pontchartrain sauce? What is pontchartrain sauce?" I try to be smart. I had already Googled it. I'm like, "You know, it's like butter and some salt and garlic." She's like, "No, it's not. Theirs is kind of sweet, and it's made with whipped cream." People are like, "Oh. Thank you. I won't have that." I'm like, "How is the Shrimptastic?" She's like, "It's actually all right. It's pretty good." I'm like, "Okay. That's the first positive thing you've said, so I'll go with Shrimptastic." If you're ever in Galveston, it's shrimp average. I would not try the Shrimptastic.
Stephanie was a faithful steward. She was a server (servant of Christ), and she was a faithful steward. She wasn't just telling us what we wanted to hear. She wasn't just trying to sling dishes. She actually had our best interests in mind. She was like, "Well, you came here to eat, and you probably want to eat something good that's nourishing that you're going to enjoy, so I'm going to tell you how it is. They used to freeze those patties and thaw them out. They weren't good, but now they are." She would tell us how it is.
Paul says we are to be servers and faithful stewards…not just stewards, but faithful stewards…telling the good and the bad to this world. Meaning, we share, "Hey, there's sin. These things are going to lead to death in your life. You should not eat that, live that, do that, drink that, because there's so much good in Christ, and he will forgive you of your sins." To tell them the hope, that you would be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God.
That menu was a mystery to me. I was like, "I don't know. I don't know what to do," and she navigated us through it. That's what our role is. We're to be Stephanie to the world, a faithful steward, showing the things of God. Steward is oikonomos in the Greek. In the ancient Near East, an oikonomos, or a steward, was someone who had dominion. A house, a business, or whatever it was… They would place a steward over that thing to do the bills, to take care of the servants, to make sure everyone was fed. Even the children were fed.
He had the authority over all the household on behalf of the sovereign to care for everything. Here, the Lord says you are that. You're that steward, but moreover, it is important that they be found faithful. Can you imagine if we walk into the restaurant and Stephanie just has her heels kicked up on the table, eating her own Shrimptastic, and is like, "Figure it out. I already have a meal. You guys deal with it"? Instead, she came to serve and steward. That's by sharing Christ.
I think, right now, you have such an opportunity, because it's Good Friday and Easter. We still live in a quasi culturally Christian nation where it's not super out-of-bounds to be like, "Hey, would you want to join me for Easter? Do you have any plans for that?" That's normal still in America today. It wouldn't be super unexpected to be like, "Hey, I don't know if you have plans for Easter." Christmas and Easter. These are things people will still be open to invitations for, and you can invite them so easily, to be a servant of Christ and faithful steward.
Or to say, "Hey, at noon on Friday, I'm actually going over to my church. They have a Good Friday service. Would you want to come with me? It's great. You should join me." There's an easy opportunity there to share Christ. You're living for the purpose of Christ, but also, in order to share Christ, you must fear Christ alone. You can't fear others. In 1 Corinthians 4 also, Paul says, "It's a very small thing to me that I be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I don't even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."
In case you're like, "That's a weird verse. Why do you have that memorized? Why out of Scriptures would you pick that one?" it's because I'm a chronic people-pleaser. In my flesh, that's what I want. I want you to like me. I remember it starting in eighth grade in a bad way, where I felt so insecure that I was like, "Dude, I will be a chameleon to whatever people for them to like me, because I don't want to be alone or alienated or the weird kid. I just want to be in."
I figured out, "I can be who you want me to be for you to like me, and then I'll feel included." So I memorized that verse because I needed it desperately. Here, in this context, Paul is saying, spiritually speaking… He just said, "Servant of Christ. Faithful steward." Then he said, "I don't actually care what you think. I don't care what a human court thinks. I don't even care what I think. I care what God thinks." Freeing himself up by fearing Christ alone and no longer fearing others.
Fearing others can lead to freezing up instead of faithfully stewarding. There's a person I love dearly who I had been around so much but often hadn't shared fully about Christ. So, at one point I was like, "All right; enough," and I wrote this. "All that being said, I need to ask your forgiveness. Will you please forgive me for every time I've tiptoed around spiritual conversations with you? I love you too much to have ever done so, because you are so dear to me.
You have known me for over seven years now, and you know my deep love for you and that I'm not crazy or would ever speak with ill intent or disrespect. A doctor wouldn't mince words about someone with heart disease who was dying, yet I am afraid I have done that with you. I've minced words and not wanted to be off-putting to you, but out of love and concern I must now speak, for I believe, spiritually speaking, you have heart disease, and thus I have grave concern for your eternity."
I went on to share six pages of the gospel, and not just like, "Hey, if you trust in Jesus, you'll go to heaven," but also, "And if you don't, then hell forever awaits you. I'm going to be a faithful steward. I'm going to tell you about the bad and about the good so you can make an informed decision about how to be reconciled to the Father." Because of my fear of what they would think of me, it froze me up. We have to push through that by fearing Christ alone.
If that's a struggle of yours, I want to recommend this to you: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller. Keller takes it a little more broadly than just from spiritual conversations, but the totality of life, like, hey, in your work and how you do and what you look like, in your achievements and accomplishments, quit caring what others think or what you think. Care alone what God thinks. Let that be what moves you.
Our motives can really mess us up, as it says in the following verse: "…before the Lord comes [the second coming of Christ], who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart." There it is…the motive, the purposes of the heart. "Then each one will receive his commendation from God."
I want to show you these. These are Christian things that we do, like pray. How can praying be bad? Praying is a great thing. What would ever be wrong with praying? Except that it says, "At the Lord's coming the light will reveal the purposes or motives of the heart, and then each will receive his commendation."
So, at the coming of Christ, praying… Well, maybe it's this: to impress others, which is what Jesus condemned the Pharisees for. "You're just dropping those big words to impress others. I see what you're doing there. You're just trying to sound great." What's your motive in that? Is it prayer or is that some religious act that we would think more of you?
Here's another one. It's giving. How could giving to a church or a ministry or to missions…? How in the world could that be bad? Christ will reveal the motives of the heart, and sometimes we give to get rich. It's called the prosperity gospel. Here's what it sounds like. Nobody is going to be like, "All right, ladies and gentlemen, here's the prosperity gospel. Everybody pull your wallet out." That's not how it goes.
"God wants more for you! He has more for you in your life. He desires greatness and hope and joy. So, if you give today, then he is going to give to you. If you give that seed money, just a little bit, to show your faith, then he's going to pour it out to you, pressed down, shaken, overflowing, and you will receive blessings as you take that step in faith."
They are charlatans, spiritual charlatans, spiritual lottery that we are guilty of if we give to them, just as they are guilty of by giving that gospel. God has not promised to make us rich but rather to be rich in good deeds. It says he gives seed to the sower, not to be rich, but so they can be generous on every occasion. Sometimes we give in hopes that we might get more, and God is like, "You're missing it." The light will reveal it on the last day.
Here's this last one: going to church. How could that be wrong? That's great…going to church. This is the one I struggle with a lot. Christ knows. He already sees it, but it will be revealed on the last day. Because you're supposed to. I'm a pastor, for crying out loud. If I have a hard week or a kid is sick or I'm not feeling 100 percent, it's really tempting to be like, "You know what? I can stream."
I don't worship at home. I don't have my hands raised, singing my guts out when I'm looking at a laptop with a kid fussing, asking me for a Pop-Tart. But that's what I'm wrestling with. "John, you're supposed to," versus the heart being like, "Lord, I want to go worship with your people. I want to be fed by the Word. I want to go be reminded of the purposes of Christ."
Then there's this one. You're like, "Oh, that's the wrong poster board. Did you drop that one on the floor? That one is blank." It's blank for a reason. Do you remember the inaction of the letter I read, because I've been concerned about what you might think of me? This is blank because I think the motives of the heart are fear and selfishness. That's why it's blank…all of the things we don't do because we're more concerned about what they might think of us or I'm just selfish with my time. "I don't want to engage in it. You know what? I have other things I planned to do."
So, our inaction. It says in James, "If you know the good you ought to do and do not do it, for you it is sin." There are sins of commission (sinning by doing something), and there's sin of omission, which means sinning by not moving into the good works, not being a faithful steward. One day it'll be laid bare.
Giving Christ all the glory. So, living for the purposes of Christ, meaning, he gets all the glory. We're not out there being glory thieves, like the Pharisees, or thumping our chests or making all of these things, but rather all the glory goes to him. First Corinthians 4:6-7:
"I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?"
Again, James is like, "Everything you have is from God. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights." Everything you have is good, so what in the world are you doing boasting about it? You didn't do it. I say to my kids often… I'll be like, "Penny, baby, you are beautiful. Do you know the most beautiful part of you?" She's like, "My insides." I'm like, "That's right." I say, "But you're really pretty. Who made you pretty?" She's like, "Jesus did."
I want her to know, if she's ever looking in the mirror and is like, "Huh. Wow…" It's like, "That's Jesus." Or I'll tell Hill, "God has given you a good mind. You're smart, buddy. Who made you smart? Jesus. Don't you ever forget." But we, as adults, start to think, "Well, I mean, I got the job. I'm the one who worked hard. I saved the money. I made the wise investment and flipped it. I invested in whatever X, Y, and Z to get this. I'm the one. I'm the one."
He's like, "What do you have that you didn't receive? If you received it, why are you boasting as though you didn't?" But we compare ourselves to each other. We're sizing each other up, like, "I've got more than him. I look better than her. I'm skinnier than her. I got the guy. I got into that college. This is on my résumé. Look at where I live. Look at what I drive." We're comparing ourselves to each other. Comparison. This is the problem. Social media is toxic in this regard.
Comparison. Compare-is-sin. I was looking at the word one day. I was like, "Oh my goodness!" The Lord has it right there for all of us, every time we do it, to know that it's sin. If you want to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to Jesus and be like, "I want to be more like you." Period. End of story. Full stop.
Live for the purpose of Christ, and if you live for the purpose of Christ, then your life will be full of plot twists. Here it is. First Corinthians 4:8-13. Paul gets spicy. He is mocking them right here. "Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign…" He's saying, "You don't reign. You just think you do. You think you're on top of the world, have the tiger by the tail. You don't."
"…so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death…" Remember, he said, "Imitate me." "Y'all are living your best life now. I feel like I'm a man sentenced to death." "…because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake…" Wait. The Corinthians valued wisdom and philosophy and rhetoric. Fools? That's a weird path, Paul.
"…but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute." You're seeing plot twist after plot twist. "To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands." He was saying, "Hey, I'm doing this menial manual labor." In the ancient Near East, that would have been like, "I'm low. I went low here. I'm an apostle, and I'm working with my hands putting together tents." It was a humble statement.
"When reviled [plot twist], we bless; when persecuted [plot twist], _we endure; when slandered [plot twist], we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things." He's like, "My life is a plot twist. I'm living for the purpose of Christ, so I'm not rich or held in high regard. I'm like a man sentenced to death, but it's a plot twist for Christ."
When you walked in, you got a twist tie. Now you're going to find out why. A twist tie, by nature, is meant to twist. It is an object that is used to bring things together and keep them from decay. Think about a bag of bread. It's going to bring together and keep it from spoiling or decay. Nobody in their right mind…
You walk into their kitchen, and they're like, "Hey, welcome. Have you seen my twist tie? It has never been bent. In fact, I have a little trophy stand for it. It's straight, huh? I don't use it. It's just there so everybody can see my perfect little twist tie. Why would I want to change it or bend it? It's perfect right there. It's pristine." No one has ever said that. You just grab it, and you're like, "I need that. I've got to use it."
Every single day, the Lord is handing you a twist tie and saying, "I want you to use your life today to bring people together and keep them from decay, to tell them about Jesus, to share Jesus with them. I want you to live for the purpose of Christ by the plot twists of Christ. Don't remain all straight and perfect. I want your life to be shaped to reach others who are lost, to keep them from decay, because they're dying."
But we take our little twist tie of life, and we're like, "Nope. Nope. Nope. Nothing bother my day. I've got my agenda. I've got my to-do list. I've got my Outlook calendar. I don't have time for that interruption. Actually, I don't have room for that meeting because I've already scheduled, so, no. I can't take that divine interruption. I'm going to screen that phone call. No, I can't actually help you with that financial difficulty. I know you actually look like you're having a horrible day, but I'm not going to stop and pray with you, because I have things I have to do. I'm not going to bend or twist my life."
We seek to preserve it, and we lose it. Jesus says, "Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." Our lives are to be full of plot twists, and instead, I think we often live (I know I do) with plot misses. Every movie and every book you've ever enjoyed is enjoyable and awesome and intriguing because of the plot twists. Nobody opens a book and is like, "I know exactly what's going to happen. This is so predictable. I love it."
You call it a page-turner or a mind-bender if it's a movie, a psychological thriller, like, "Oh my goodness!" You're telling everybody about it, or you want to see it again because you're like, "Oh! Now that I know that's happening, I have to rewatch it. I can't believe that's what was going on!" Because of the plot twist. That's what draws us in. That's what makes it unique and interesting and set apart from everything else. Yet we don't live our lives as a plot twist and, instead, as a plot miss.
Paul says all of these examples. "When reviled, we bless. When persecuted, we endure." He's saying all of it's a plot twist, but we waste our lives by trying to play it safe and keep this thing straight when the Lord has entrusted it to us otherwise. So, you have to make a choice how you're going to use your day and how you're going to use this from God, every providential opportunity.
Here are some plot twists that happened in my life by others. I'm at an A.A. meeting (Alcoholics Anonymous), December 27, 2005. It's the very first time I've been there, and I'm like, "This is worthless. What am I going to do? Sit around in a circle and tell old war stories about drinking? I'm out of here. I have a problem, but this ain't helping." I'm about to walk out, and this guy steps in front of me. He's like, "Hey, if you're going to do this, you're going to need some help. Take down my cell phone number. Let's start calling each other every single day."
Charlie, who was the CEO of a company… He has some stuff going on. He was like, "I'm going to plot twist my life for you, John. I had something to do. I could have gone home to my wife. I'm going to stay and talk to you. In fact, I'm going to talk to you every day for three months." Three months later, I'm sitting at dinner at my parents' house, and a neighbor comes over; he works for a ministry.
He's like, "Hey, we're going on a mission trip. Would you want to come with us?" In my mind, I'm like, "Dude, I'm barely three months sober. Do you know the liability if I go rogue on your mission trip? Are you kidding me?" But he's like, "Man, I see somebody in need." Everybody else on that trip had been long discipled. They knew them well. Here I am, a recovering drunk, and he's like, "Do you want to come with us?" Plot twist for my sake.
I moved down here to Dallas. Somebody at Watermark, at this church… They're sitting in church. I'm in Missouri, coming to seminary. I'm about to pack up and move everything. He goes… It was Sam Barrett. He lives in Houston now. He texts me and says, "Hey, the Spirit just put on my heart that I am to let you live with me rent and bill free until you're done with seminary or until I get married." I was like, "You aren't dating anybody, are you?"
I lived with him for two years until he met his bride Susan, and then I got the boot, but then David and Missy Williams, who are members here at Watermark… I wasn't even going to this church. I was part of another church. They were like, "Hey…" They were pregnant, but they had an open room. Plot twist.
"You know what, John? Why don't you come live with us? Finish out your last year of seminary as you date Laura. We're going to take you in." They plot twisted, stewarded their lives. They could have kept it straight, but they were like, "Nope. We see a providential person in our path (like that little boy who was lost), and we're going to stop, and we're going to change."
Here's just a couple from this last week. You've heard me talk about my house. People were coming over to work on our house. Shocker. They come in, and I'm already kind of late to get into the office, but I'm like, "Would you all like some coffee?" You can see the hesitancy there, where they're like, "Uh, is that okay? We're supposed to be here working." I'm like, "Do you want some coffee? I think that's a yes, because you hesitated. Let me brew another pot." So I made coffee. I'm like, "Do you want sugar and cream with that?" They're like, "Uh, sure."
All of a sudden, they're not working, and I'm serving. It was a plot twist because I said, "Hey…" I don't share this because I'm awesome and batting a thousand. I can tell you many more examples of when I kept my little twist tie straight instead of twisting it for Christ. I said, "Hey, I'm a recovering alcoholic. I used to be a drunk." They were like, "You? Did you have your family then?" I was like, "No. I was living on a couch and suicidal, but Jesus saved me. He changed me."
They were like, "Really?" I was like, "Yes. He'll do that for anyone, for any struggle. Whether it's porn or sexual sin or an eating disorder or anxiety… Whatever it is you're struggling with, he will do that for you." She said, "You mean really? Jesus, for whatever struggle, any struggle?" I'm like, "Yes." She said, "Well, my uncle has a real problem."
So I got to share a resource with them and invite them to church. They're Spanish speakers originally, so I was like, "Hey, we have a Spanish-speaking service every Sunday at 11:00, Watermark en Español." I pulled it up on their phone. They may be here today. They said they were going to come.
Another one… I was at a gas station. This guy gets out of his car with a wad of $1 bills. I'm on the phone, getting gas. He gets out of this beater, but it has a paper license plate, like he just came from the dealership, meaning he had to buy a not-great car, and he has a wad of crumpled singles. I'm like, "Hey, let me get your gas," because I'm on the phone. He's like, "What?" I'm like, "Put your money away. Let me get your gas."
He thinks it's some kind of scheme, like, "You stole someone's credit cards, and then you're trying to get my cash. You're ultra-bad." I'm like, "Hang on. Let me call you back. Hey, fill it up." Gas is crazy. He had on a UPS shirt. I'm like, "Look. Amazon… You guys are saving my life. Let me buy you a tank of gas." He's like, "Okay."
I was like, "Can I tell you why I'm doing this?" He was like, "Of course." I was like, "It's Jesus. I was a wretch, man. He saved me, totally changed my life, so now I get to live to tell others about him and how he can help them. Have you ever heard about Jesus?" We just started talking, and then he was like, "Hey, I actually have to go." I was like, "Oh," because I'm talking to this guy about Jesus.
He was like, "I have to go start my other job. I just worked in the Amazon warehouse all night, and now I'm a driver for a hospital." And everywhere… I mean, I needed to get into work and start my day, but the Lord was like, "No, I need you to twist. There's a plot twist here. If you'll take it, if you'll not keep so straight with your agenda, I need you to plot twist."
On Friday, Mickey, one of our elders, and I were at a restaurant having lunch. A girl drops off the food. She didn't look like she was having a super awesome day just by her demeanor, but Mickey was talking, so I'm watching her walk away. Mickey is talking. I don't want to interrupt. I'm watching her walk away, and in my heart it was like, "Say something. Say something. Say something."
At this point, she was from me to those lights. I go, "Hey!" She's like, "Yes?" I'm like, "What's your name?" I'm sure she's like, "I saw your wedding ring, dirtbag." She says her name and starts walking over slowly. I was like, "Hey, we always pray before the meal. Is there any way we could pray for you?" She went from face of having not an awesome day to eyes full of tears and shared something really, really hard she had been walking through and was like, "I have to sit down."
Because of that plot twist, now we were three people sitting together, praying with her. Mickey was sharing the hope of Jesus with her about how much God loves her. She may actually be here today. You might actually be here now. If you are, God loves you so much, and he is at work, sister, in your life.
The question is…Will you remain straight or will you plot twist for Christ? Some of them… There will be opportunities God lays before you, like, "Will you make your life a plot twist for the sake of this person who is lost and wandering and subject to decay? Will you use your life, step out of bounds, quit being so predictable, and let me lead you?" All who are children of God are led by the Spirit of God.
Will you step out of line and be led by the Spirit instead of your logic? Put away your to-do list and look for God, because he has opportunities every single day. I'm afraid we're going to show up to heaven, and we're going to have a bunch of straight gold twist ties. He's like, "I love you." Or will we show up with some mangled, twisted up ones, like, "I let you lead me. There were plot twists for the purpose of Christ throughout my life"?
This past week, Laura and I got news. Sometimes God will use you to make a plot twist, and sometimes God will entrust a plot twist to you. The plot twist God entrusted to us this week is… She did one of her scans post breast cancer, and it showed some early indicators of what may be the cancer returning. It's the same early indicators that were there before.
So, plot twist. My dear bride Laura was like, "Hey, you know what? If this is cancer, or maybe it's just something else, but either way, it's Jesus, and he'll be glorified." We're going to follow him, and he'll provide. So, all that the Lord entrusts to you, let it be plot twists for Christ, and he will be glorified.
Oh, hang on. I forgot about something. There's a reason why it's gold. I specifically wanted gold twist ties, because as these are twisted up… It says in that verse that each will receive his commendation, his reward, praise, at the coming of Christ when the Lord reveals with his light the purposes of the heart.
As we steward our lives, as faithful stewards, there is a reward one day, as we live for the glory of Christ. I know in that day, in case you're like, "Wait. I'm not living for rewards; I'm living for Christ…" It says in Revelation the elders take their crowns and cast them before the Lord. In the words of Psalm 115:1: "Not to us, not to us, but to you be the glory because of your love and faithfulness."
Live for the purpose of Christ by the plot twists of Christ in the power of Christ. See, the Pharisees were great at doing religious activity. They tithed. They prayed. They did all of their things. It wasn't by the power of Christ. It was empty, dead religion. So, as you live for the purpose of Christ by the plot twists of Christ, it has to be by the power of Christ or it also will be dead.
Paul says, "I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me." There he is. You be a faithful steward too. "That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them…"
There you have orthodoxy (as I teach them) and orthopraxy (my ways in Christ) as I live them. "…everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you." Because they were the "best life now" people, like, "We're rich. We're reigning." Paul is like, "You're wrong. The path of the Savior is suffering and to lay down your life for others." That's the bull's-eye: love. Love God, love others. Not serve self…serve them.
"But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?"
Paul talks about how he's their father. My kids have many different influences in their lives. My 4-year-old has preschool teachers and neighborhood parents and soccer coaches and all of the different influences that he has, but he only has one father. Recently, I was putting Judd to bed, and he asked me, "Will I go to heaven or hell when I die?"
Now, if I had to guess, I think out of all of the influences Judd has, some of them might have been like, "No, Judd. You're not going to go to hell. You're a good little boy." I'm like, "No. If he doesn't trust in Jesus, he's straight up going to hell." Or they might have said, "Judd, no. No. Everybody goes to heaven. All of the people on the earth are God's children." No. Some are children of wrath, and those who trust in Jesus are children of the Father.
Or they might have said, "Judd, Judd, why would you even worry about such a thing as a little boy? You're good. Don't worry about it." Me as the father… I'm sitting there on his bed, and he asks this. I was like, "Well, Judd, it all depends. It all depends on what you believe about Jesus. If you trust in Jesus, you'll go to heaven, and if you don't, then you will go to hell. Have a good night."
I said, "Judd, Jesus died for your sins and rose again. He's not just a man. He's God in flesh. He rose again, that whoever believes in him… If you trust in him for the forgiveness of your sins, that he is Lord, and believe God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." He didn't even respond to me. He squinted his eyes as hard as he could and went, "Jesus, take the sin out of me." I was like, "Thank you, Lord." I'm going to keep watering and planting that seed, and all of us together, as we raise up each other in Christ, because it's all his power. It's not of talk.
He has one father, so I'm going to shoot him straight. The parents for us, the parenting we are to be under… Because right now there's so much subjective, cultural spirituality. The parenting we are to be under is the church, Christ, and the canon of Scripture. The parenting we are to be under, despite all the noise and wacky heterodoxy that's out there, is that we are to be under Christ, his church, which is his body, and the canon of Scripture. These are our spiritual parents.
Then he says of talk or of power. He's like, "Hey, there are a lot of people in Corinth who are talking the talk, but you will know by the power you see in their lives." The gospel transforms lives. When I buy things, I buy in bulk, not because I'm a prepper but because I hate running out of stuff. So, if I buy deodorant, I buy 10. If I buy toothpaste, I buy five. If I buy bread… I have a freezer full of it because I just hate running out of it. So, we have bread on hand is my point. We have a lot of bread. I don't mean bread; I mean edible bread.
For breakfast one morning, I'm talking to my kids. I'm like, "Hey, kids, y'all want cereal, waffles, or toast?" My 8-year-old's eyes got wide, and he goes, "Toast? We have toast?" I was like, "Yeah. We have toast." He's like, "I can't believe we have toast! Why didn't you tell me we had toast?" I'm like, "Dude, watch this." Put it in the toaster, push the button… I'm like, "We have bread, so we have toast. What are you talking about?"
He's like, "I knew we had bread. I didn't know we had toast." I'm like, "Well, you put it in the toaster." They have eaten toast every day for the last three months. Now I have to buy a lot more bread than I ever bought. The reason why was because the bread was applied to power, and it transformed. The bread applied to the power of that appliance transformed it and made it a thing of awe to my children, and it will to the world as well.
Not just that you know about Christ, but that you abide in him and make him known, that the world would be like, "Dude, you are much more than talk. I see it at work in your life. You're living for the purpose of God by the plot twists of Christ. I see his power in you. You're not just someone who's talking the talk, but I see the power." It says in the Scriptures the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in you. He has given you victory over sin, death, and Satan.
It is anything but talk. It is a transformed life by the power applied. Jesus says, "Abide in me. You'll bear much fruit." There is power, supernatural power, and Paul spoke it. We're speaking it again, as we would live it, as we apply the gospel, not just once and for all but every single day, as if you live for the purpose of Christ with your life. Don't waste it by playing it safe. If you live for plot twists for Christ in…you cannot do it on your own…by the power of Christ, his power alone.
That little boy we found lost on Devil's Island… One dad, Clayton Kendall, started looking on Google for his name, found his cell phone number, and connected with him. He was like, "Hey, man. We're good. We have your boy." There was a mix-up with transportation. He was supposed to be with his school. The other dad, Rebel Blackwell, another Watermark guy, starts running the trails. They knew not to pick me. I'm out of shape.
Rebel starts running all of the trails to find the school he's with. All of us together are like, "Nothing is happening to this little boy. God put him in our path. He's good until he's reconciled to his father." The question is…Will we, as a church, have the same longing, aching, desperation for any single person who is lost, that we would work together, the body in Christ working in concert together, plot twisting our lives, that every single person would be reconciled to the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord? Let's pray.
Father, thank you that we once were lost… We were the little boy separated from you in our sin, sitting on our island of sin, and you came for us. You sent your servants to come and share the gospel with us, not just that we would be saved but so also we could live now for the purpose of Christ and not have a straight life of our agenda, but that we would have a life full of plot twists for Christ and that, Lord, it would all be done by your power. Not by Christian one-upmanship, not by religious routine that is dead and empty, but that as we surrender to you and walk with you, we would stop for those lost souls and they would come to know Jesus and be forever reconciled to the Father. In Jesus' mighty name, amen.