Good morning. I am so glad you are here today. Last week was a lot of fun as we took a look back at all God did in and through Hub City in 2012. But I want us to head in a new direction this morning by talking about how to make 2013 your best year ever.

And I’ll be really honest with you. Over the next three weeks I’m going to share with you what it is that I want for you in 2013. Like, if I knew I had 1 month to live, this is what I would share with you. Now, even though some of you might have gotten your hopes up, I’m not planning on kicking the bucket in a month. But, as your friend and pastor, I want to share some things from my heart that I want for you in 2013. And I am fully confident that not only are these things that I want for you, they are things that are good for you and will help you make 2013 your best year ever.

And it all starts with making Jesus the central priority in your life. I want Jesus to be the central priority in your life. Now I know that that is what you would expect a pastor to say, but I didn’t make this stuff up. This is actually Jesus’ desire for you too.

Jesus says it like this in Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

C.S. Lewis says it this way: You cant get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.

Well, in order to put first things first, in order to make Jesus the central priority in your life, you need to do something. Basically, it boils down to developing the right habits. Your life is the sum of your habits. For many of us, we’re not where we want to be or where we know we should be because the bad habits or useless habits in our lives keep us from doing what we’re supposed to do and being who we’re supposed to be.

But if you want to change your life, change your habits. If you want to improve your life, then you need to develop some habits that will get you to where you want to go. If you want 2013 to be the best year ever then you’re going to have to develop some habits that will make that possible.

I want to share with you six habits that fit with the acronym H.A.B.I.T.S. that, if you incorporate them in your daily life, will help you to prioritize Jesus in your life in 2013. I’m got to explain each habit and then we’ll come back and figure out one thing you can do in each area starting this week.

H.A.B.I.T.S.

Hang time with God. This is a prayer habit. It is all about spending time with God. I can’t tell you how important it is that you develop the habit of spending time with God. It’s a pretty radical thought that the God who created the universe wants to spend time with you. He really does. You need to carve out time every day to hang out with God. And Jesus set an example for us about how important this is.

Mark 1:35 – Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Jesus, the Son of God, carved out time to hang out with God, his heavenly father. If Jesus needed this, then we most definitely need it.

Paul takes it one step further in the letter he wrote to the Thessalonian church when he said, Pray continually. You and I must develop the habit of being in constant communication with God. And let me tell you, when you do this, it will change your life. I want for you to learn how to pray and to pray more in 2013.

Accountability. This is a relationship habit. But it’s more than just friendship. It’s about being in intentional relationships with others where we can help one another grow and develop as disciples of Jesus. We all need people in our lives who will hold us to our commitments and get in our face when we fall short. The writer of Hebrews says it this way.

Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If you want 2013 to be your best year ever then you need to develop the habit of accountability. This happens best in a small group.

Bible reading. I dont know of any other habit that you could develop that would have more benefit for you over the long run. You need to do whatever it takes to develop a plan for reading God’s word on a daily basis. God wants to speak to you, and the primary way he speaks is through is Word.

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

In other words, the way we figure out what we are supposed to do, how we are to act, where we are to go is from God’s Word.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I don’t know about you, but I need God breathing his wisdom, help and instruction into my life on a consistent basis. But this habit isn’t just about putting more Bible into your head. It’s about doing what it says. I want you to know what God’s word says so that you can do what he wants you to do. Read your Bible.

Invest and invite. This is a relationship habit as well. But it’s about intentionally being in relationships with people who are far away from God. See, if we’re not careful and intentional, we’ll end up having friendships and relationships only with people who are just like us, who believe like us, who are Christians like us. We need to develop the habit of investing in relationships with people who are far away from God. Jesus modeled this when he said of himself.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

The incredible thing about Jesus is that those who were nothing like him liked him. And he liked those who were nothing like him. As his followers we should follow his example. I want for you to have relationships with people who are far from God.

Tithing. This is a financial stewardship habit. Developing the habit of generosity is essential for Jesus followers in our materialistic and consumerist culture. Jesus said, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. God doesn’t want your money. He wants your heart, but what is knows is that the best way to your heart is through your money. Develop the habit of giving this year. The habit of tithing will do more for your priorities and spiritual growth than anything else on this list because it teaches you to trust God. I want for you to experience the joy and blessing that comes from being obedient to the tithe.

Serving. This is a habit that involves putting others first. All of us have a bent towards self and selfishness. When you serve others it changes you. I want you to learn to think of others first and put others before yourself.

There you go. Habits that can make 2013 the best year ever. But here’s what I know. For most of you, 2013 isn’t going to be the best year ever. It’s not going to be your best year ever because you’re not going to do what needs to be done so that 2013 can be the best year ever. You’re going to keep doing what you’ve always done. But you do know that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. And my hope is that some of you are just so dissatisfied with the way things are that you’ll do whatever it takes to incorporate these habits into your life.

So here’s my question: What commitment can you make in each of these areas that could help you grow? You won’t develop these habits if you don’t start by making a commitment to develop them today. So, let’s talk through them again and discuss some ways for you to start developing these habits today. As we talk through each habit I want you to think of one thing you can do to begin to develop that habit or to take that habit to the next level, and I want you to write it down on your sheet. Now, let me be clear, I don’t want you to write down something you could do. I want you to write down something that you are going to do.

Hang time with God – How are you going to spend time with God this year? There are two books I want to recommend. The Circle Maker and Draw the Circle. They will most definitely challenge you in how you pray, which is what most of us need, because we don’t know how to pray. But the key is to start praying. Talk with God out loud as you are driving in the car.

Accountability – The only thing I want to ask you to do here is to commit to consistently be a part of a hub group.

Bible Reading – Start reading your Bible. Find a Bible reading plan and do it. In fact, who here has a smart phone, iPhone, iPad, or Kindle? Get it out and hold it up. Ok, now go to your app store. Search “youversion.” Download it right now. There are hundreds of Bible reading plans on there for you to use. I used it to do something I’ve never done before. It helped me read through the Bible twice in one year last year. Liz is using one of their read through the Bible in a year plans that gives her some readings from the Old and New Testament each day. But you don’t need a smart phone or iPad to do this. We have Bibles if you need a readable version with plans. I’m emailing out a short passage each day that goes along with the sermon. Good morning girls.

Now, I know that some of you don’t have time to read the Bible, or that’s the excuse you keep telling yourself. I’ve got some help for you. How many of you poop sitting down? Read the Bible while you are on the toilet. Why not? We make time for what is most important.

Invest and invite – Take one of your unchurched coworkers out for coffee to get to know them better. Invite a neighbor to our next series. Do a cookout or progressive dinner for your neighbors.

Tithing – Move from being a random giver to a percentage giver. I am such a believer that this one habit can transform your life that we’re offering a Giving guarantee. Look at the sheet. Up the percentage that you give. Read a book on managing finances or giving or generosity.

Serving – If you see a need, meet it. Look around you. Start serving on Sundays. Start serving more consistently or more often. What you really need to do is go to Haiti with us. March 16-23 or August 3-10. I firmly believe that the best thing many, if not all, of you could do to make 2013 your best year ever is to go to Haiti and serve with Alex’s House. I want for each of you to go to Haiti this year. We are meeting right after church with anyone who is interested.

I am confident that the best thing you can do to make 2013 the best year ever is to develop these habits. They will help you keep first things first. And when you prioritize what’s most important then everything else will get taken care of. Remember what we read in Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Let’s read that verse again together. That’s what I want for you in 2013.

ImageWhat are your favorite Christmas movies or shows?

The first year Liz and I were dating I went to her house for thanksgiving and I learned that it was a Harris family tradition to watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation as you were decorating the Christmas tree. I knew then and there that this was the family that I wanted to marry in to. Who wouldn’t want to marry into a family like that?

Now, I love Clark Griswold and Ralphie, but my two favorite Christmas shows are cartoons. I love the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The theme song reminds me of so many of you. Just kidding. The real reason why it’s one of my favorites is because of how the Grinch has a heart change. It reminds us of what we all need.

Another one of my favorites is the Charlie Browns Christmas special. I loved seeing it on the big screen last night. The reason I love Charlie Brown so much is that it reminds us of the real reason for the season when Linus reads the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. I get teary eyed every time I watch it.

We all have our favorite shows we like to watch this time of year, but I think that all the great Christmas movies and Christmas specials, that we all love, can drown out the true Christmas story. And then when you add to that all the other stuff that consumes our focus this time of year, work functions, family get togethers, shopping, elf on a shelf and all the other crazy stuff we do, it is so easy for us to move through the season without thinking of the true Christmas story.

So what I want us to do for the next three weeks, as we get close to Christmas, is to remind ourselves of the original Christmas story.

And we are going to start off with a story about Jesus’ dad. Open up your Bible’s to Matthew 1. Matthew begins with a genealogy that tell us about Jesus’ ancestral line. After Matthew tells us about where Jesus came from he launches into the account of Jesus’ birth.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph,

Let me stop right here because here we are introduced to Jesus’ earthly parents: Mary and Joseph. We’ll learn more about Mary next Sunday, but this passage has to do with Joseph.

This says that Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. What does that mean? There were essentially three steps to marriage in the Jewish world of Jesus’ time. The first step was engagement: This could happen when the couple were quite young, and was often arranged by the parents. The second step was Betrothal: This was the stage Mary and Joseph were in at this time. This step made the engagement official and binding. During the time of betrothal the couple were known as husband and wife, they just didn’t live together as husband and wife, nor did they consummate the marriage. Also it’s important to note that a betrothal could only be broken by divorce. Betrothal typically lasted a year. After step one and two came Marriage: This took place after the wedding, after the year of betrothal.

So, know that Mary and Joseph are in the betrothal stage, considered husband and wife, but not yet married. Let’s move on.

but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

In other words, before the wedding, before the marriage, Mary became pregnant. But the baby was not Joseph’s because he and Mary hadn’t had sex yet.

Now, let’s just stop right here because this is a scandalous situation. We don’t make a big deal in our culture if someone gets pregnant outside of marriage, but in this Jewish culture this was a big deal with serious ramifications.

But this situation goes from serious, Mary being pregnant outside of marriage, to ridiculous: God is the one responsible. It’s the Holy Spirit’s fault.

Those of you here today who aren’t Christians and haven’t bought into the whole Jesus thing, hear this and say, “Yep, that’s exactly why I’m not a Christian: A virgin who becomes pregnant. Yeah, right. And God did it. Yeah, right.”

I understand how weird the whole virgin birth thing is. I acknowledge that. But we actually believe that Mary, a virgin, became pregnant and it was God’s fault. This is actually a fulfillment of a prophesy that Isaiah made.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

But let’s get back to the story. Suppose you’re Joseph and you find out the girl you’re betrothed to is pregnant, and you’re not the father. How would you feel? Cheated? Robbed? Angry? I’m sure he felt all of that. And, what would you do? Here’s what Joseph did.

19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

What Joseph did was what many of us would have done. He wanted out of the relationship. He wanted a divorce. Remember, the only way to end the betrothal stage was with a divorce.

But notice what it says about Joseph. He was a righteous man who did not want to publicly disgrace Mary. This says something about Joseph’s character. Most of us would have wanted to make a big deal out of this. But not Joseph. He decided to divorce her quietly. Really, this was the only logical choice for a man in his situation.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

So get this, after Joseph decides to divorce Mary an angel show up in Joseph’s dream and tells him not to go through with the divorce. The angel then goes on to coo-borate Mary’s excuse that God did it, then goes on to say:

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

The angel tells Joseph not to divorce Mary, then it tells him that the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit, and finally the angel goes as far as telling Joseph what to name the kid.

If you think about it, picking a name is a big deal for couples, but here, the angel tells Joseph what he’s supposed to name his kid. He’s supposed to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.

This is so important because Jesus’ name says everything about who he is and what he came to the earth to do. He came to save people from their sins.

Which is exactly what you and I need. Our sin has doomed us. It has separated us from God. It damages our relationships. But Jesus came to save us from our sins. The truth is we need a savior. We need Jesus to save us from our sins.

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, God with us.

I read this verse a few minutes ago, but Matthew takes it a step further and tells is what Immanuel means: God with us. The whole idea of “God with us” is profound. We have a God who went to great lengths to be with us.

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Which, let’s be honest, if an angel spoke to you about something, you’d probably do what the angel said too, right? That’s what Joseph did.

25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

In other words, Joseph stayed in the betrothal stage until Jesus was born.

So, what can we take from this part of the Christmas story?

Jesus came to save you from your sins.

Your sin separates you from God. Jesus came to pay the price for your sin so that you could have a right and restored relationship with him. My question for you is: Have you accepted his forgiveness? Have you admitted that you’re a sinner in need of a savior? This is a personal decision that all of us need to make: Jesus I need you to save me from my sin.

But what is interesting is that this decision to ask Jesus yo save you from your sin is always followed up in the New Testament with baptism. The way we show that we have made this personal decision is to be baptized. Some of you need to go public with your decision by being baptized. Baptism is a way for us to publicly show our personal decision to become a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus is God with us.

I don’t know about you but this truth changes everything for me. It changes how I go through life. It changes how I work, how I treat people, how I love my wife and my kids, how I take risks. It changes everything. Jesus is God with us.

So, in light of this story what are you going to do?

–       Craft out some time to refocus on the real Christmas story.

–       Live life knowing that Jesus is with you.

–       Turn from your sins to Jesus and be baptized.

I thought it would be fun to start off with a game this morning. I call it the “you may be angry game.” Here’s how it works. See if any of the following statements are true of you.

You may be angry if:

  • If someone has ever said to you, “You seem to be angry.” You may be.
  • If you find yourself having arguments with people in your head and you are winning the argument, you may be angry.
  • If you courageously ask people you know if you are angry and they change the topic instead of answering, you may be angry.
  • Or, if as they answer you feel like a bomb is about to go off inside you, you may be angry.
  • Or, if during their answer you feel the need to interrupt and defend yourself, you may be angry.
  • Or, if you find yourself wanting to walk away while they answer, you may be angry.
  • Or, if you find yourself getting angry at the person for answering the question you asked, you’re probably angry.
  • If you don’t have joy like you once had, you may be angry.

If any of those statements was true of you then guess what? You may have an anger problem.

But good news, because this week we’re talking anger. In all seriousness, I know this is a big issue, maybe the biggest for some of us, because anger is so common.

But, why? Why is this an issue that all of us deal with? Well, at the root of anger is the idea that “you owe me.” Whenever you are hurt, whenever you are offended, whenever you are mistreated there is a sense in which whoever hurt you has taken something from you and they owe you and you get angry.

At work he stole my idea, and he stole the recognition and the promotion that should have been mine. He owes me. When my dad left, or my mom left, they robbed me of the security that come from having a mom and a dad. They owe me. When a man leaves his wife, he owes her a first marriage, because he stood there and made a promise. He stole something that was supposed to carry you through the tough times till death.

Anger says, you owe me.

And what makes anger fatal is that when we are consumed with this feeling that someone owes us it corrupts our hearts, hurts our relationships, and damages our health. Anger destroys so much. As Shawna emailed to tell me this week, anger is only one letter away from danger.

Anger affects our health – you know that. There’s muscle tension, grinding teeth, headaches, and migraines. Anger can raise your blood pressure, cause chest pain, and trigger a heart attack or a stroke. It can cause digestive issues like diarrhea and ulcers. It can lead to anxiety, and insomnia, and nightmares, and depression. Anger is a cause of skin problems like rashes, and hives, and acne. It can lead to eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, and drug abuse. The physiological affects of anger are amazing.

Anger also damages our relationships. It changes the way we treat people. When we have this anger inside it changes the way we treat our husband or wife, our kids, our parents, our friends, your waiter, the guy driving the car next to you. You don’t even have to be angry at them; anger changes the way we treat people.

And it has profound spiritual effects. Anger affects our life with God. It always does. If you don’t deal with the anger inside you, your anger will drive a wedge between you and God. You cannot be a war with other people and be at peace with God.

Bottom line, sinful anger is a devastating heart disease. It is fatal. And it is something we need to deal with. The good news is that the Apostle Paul gives us clear instructions on how to deal with the fatal distraction of anger.

If you have your Bible open it up to Ephesians 4, starting in verse 26.

26 In your anger do not sin.

Literally it says, “Be angry (that’s a command), but do not sin (that’s another command).” Now, I like that first part. Paul tells me to be angry. That’s something I can do. That’s something I can be good at. Right? We think the Bible should say, “Don’t be angry.” But it says the opposite: “Be angry.”

Now why would Paul command us to be angry? Because sometimes anger is right, sometimes anger is necessary. If someone hurts you, anger is an appropriate response. If someone hurts your wife or your kid, anger is not bad.

If someone beats his wife, if a little child is abused, if a kid is bullied, if an elderly neighbor is cheated – anger is a good response. I mean, if those things don’t make you mad, then you may be a sociopath. And if you remember, there were times when Jesus got angry, because anger sometimes is right.

But then there’s that second part that’s not so fun. It says, be angry but do not sin. The truth is that we all know that most of the time our anger leads us to do things we regret. We say things we regret. We lose control. It’s really easy for us to make the short step from anger to spite, or cruelty, or revenge, or bitterness, or hatred. That’s probably your story.

But Paul tells us: In your anger do not sin. And then he says:

26 In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

Now if you have been around church a while you have heard this verse applied to marriage. You’ve heard some preacher say, “Don’t go to bed angry.” I’ve heard of couples who have tried to stay awake for days so they don’t go to bed angry. And while I think that is a great strategy I think there’s more that Paul is trying to communicate with us. Paul is telling us to deal with our anger as soon as possible. If possible, take care of it before you to bed. Just don’t let it wait, and simmer, and stew, and seethe, and fester, and corrupt.

Another application of this is: Don’t carry your anger from one relationship into another, or from one season of life into another. Some of you have carried anger from your childhood into your marriages. Some of us are carrying anger from work into our homes. Some of you have carried the anger from a past marriage into the one you’re in now, and it’s damaging your marriage now.

One of the worst things we can do relationally, and spiritually, is to carry the anger created in one season of life into the next; to carry anger from childhood into adolescence, from adolescence into a marriage, from marriage into parenting; to carry hurt from a previous marriage into the next marriage. You get the idea.

When we carry anger with us it hurts us. It hurts the people around us. It damages our relationship with God. So Paul says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Don’t move into a new season of life without taking care of the anger inside you from the last one.

And then look what he says next:

26 In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

In other words, don’t give Satan a chance; which is exactly what unmanaged anger does. It cracks open a door for Satan to destroy us, to destroy the people around us, and to separate us from God. Satan is always looking for a way in; and our anger can crack open the door. Now I know you may not believe in Satan. I get it that it’s a bit weird, but we believe there is an adversary who is out to destroy you, and one tool I’ve seen him use over and over again is anger. In fact, I’m confident that he’s using it in some of your lives right now.

But all this leaves us asking: How can we be angry and not sin? Skip down to verse 31:

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Literally: “get rid of, stop it!” And in the Greek the word “all” means … all. Not 51%, or 75%, or 90%. Get rid of it all.

Why? Because, if we don’t, all that anger will wear on my body, it will wear on my soul; it will corrupt relationships with people I care about, and it will corrupt my life with God.

So how do we get rid of all of our anger? He gives us the answer or the antidote in the next verse:

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you. That’s the antidote. Instead of retaliating, God says, forgive. Instead of bitterness, God says, forgive. Instead of keeping score, God says, forgive. Bottom line, forgiveness is the antidote to anger.

Before I tell you what forgiveness is I think it’s important that we understand what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not a feeling. If you wait until you feel like forgiving, you may never forgive. Your feelings are deceptive. We as Christians are to do what is right, not what we feel like doing. We can forgive without feeling like it.

And forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to pretend that what someone did to you was okay. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t call sin “sin.” It’s not rationalizing what they did, or excusing what they did, or condoning what they did. In fact you can’t forgive something unless you know it was wrong.

And forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to trust the other person again. Trust has to be earned back; forgiveness is a gift.

And forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person won’t have to take responsibility for their actions. The person who wronged you may have to face some punishment, they may have to try to make things right.

And this is the hardest: Forgiveness is not contingent on the person who wronged you saying, “I’m sorry.” We are not bound to forgive only if they apologize. If I wait for an apology, they control me. We are to start the process of forgiving way before they tell us they are sorry.

That’s what forgiveness is not; here’s what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is a decision I make, not a feeling. Its a decision that says, You dont owe me anymore.

And here’s the tough part for those of us who are Christ followers: We are commanded to forgive, which means forgiveness is an obedience issue. God is clear on this. Jesus even says, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.”

But remember why we forgive. Look at verse 32 again: 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We forgive because we have been forgiven. C.S. Lewis said it like this: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” We forgive because we have been forgiven.

Some of you are thinking, “You’re being unrealistic. You don’t know what she did to me. You don’t know how badly he hurt me.” You’re right. I don’t know how deep your wounds are. I believe your anger is probably justified. But I also know what it is doing to you. It’s hurting you. It’s hurting the relationships you have with the people around you. It’s hurting your relationship with God. And if you don’t deal with it then it will be fatal.

Lewis Smedes says, “When we forgive, we set a prisoner free, and then we discover that the prisoner we set free is us.” We need that freedom.

So who are you angry with? What do they owe you? You have a choice to make. You can let that anger damage your health, your relationships with others and your relationship with God. Or you can do what Paul commands us to do: Forgive.

And remember, you don’t forgive because they deserve to be forgiven. You forgive because you have been forgiven.

Forgiveness is a decision I make, not a feeling. Its a decision that says, You dont owe me anymore.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word slothfulness in my life until this series. I doubt you’ve ever used the word either. But even though you’ve we’ve never used that word, I’m pretty sure that at some point in your life, maybe on a regular basis, you’ve been slothful. Let’s look at a definition of slothfulness.

Slothfulness: Laziness, an unwillingness to work, a lack of self-discipline. The sin of doing nothing, or as little as possible.

Look at that definition. We all know people like that, don’t we? Some of you work with people like that. Some of you live with people like that. If they are sitting beside you don’t elbow them.

But look at that definition again and ask yourself: Is that me? Specifically ask this: Is there any area of my life where I’m lazy, unwilling to work, where I lack self discipline, where I just do nothing or where I do as little as possible?

I think all of us have a compartment in our lives where we are prone to slothfulness. Maybe it’s at work. Maybe it’s in your relationship with God. Maybe it’s at home. Maybe it’s with exercise. Maybe it is with managing your finances.

I think that if we’re honest with ourselves, the person that comes to mind when we look at that definition is the person we see in the mirror every day. And while it’s easy to think of all the people in our lives who are slothful, the truth is, so are we in certain areas. We just either can’t see it, or won’t acknowledge it.

The thing about slothfulness is that it is sneaky. Oftentimes it’s not just blatant laziness, but instead, it subtly sneaks into our lives and we don’t even realize it’s there. Or maybe we realize it’s there, but we don’t want to admit it because we’d never want to admit we’re lazy. Or maybe we are so focused on the areas of our life where we aren’t slothful that we fail to acknowledge the areas where we are.

I think the place where we struggle with slothfulness is in specific areas of our lives. See if these are true of you.

Sloppy with your work.

Unwillingness to commit or take responsibility.

Not concerned with completing tasks quickly or well.

Making excuses for not reading the Bible.

Always have something else to do besides exercise.

Too tired to pray.

Can’t find time to participate in your local church.

Look away when you see a need because it’s cutting into your leisure time.

All of us have slothful compartments, don’t we? What that means is that all of us have an issue with slothfulness.

But in all seriousness, what’s the big deal? Why is slothfulness a fatal distraction? Why are we spending a week talking about this?

Simply put, slothfulness will keep you from becoming the person that God has created you to be. It distracts us from reaching our potential at work, in relationships, at home and with God. Slothfulness is dangerous.

The issue of slothfulness is such a big deal that it is addressed repeatedly throughout the book of Proverbs. It’s mentioned so much that it makes me wonder why. I think it’s because it’s so prevalent. It was prevalent in Solomon’s day. It’s prevalent in our day.

Let’s look at a few of the verses from Proverbs that address this issue.

Proverbs 13:4 – The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

Proverbs 15:19 – The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.

Proverbs 19:15 – Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry.

Proverbs 20:4 – A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

Proverbs 21:25-26 – The sluggards craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.

Proverbs 26:14-16

14 As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.

15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.

According to Solomon, slothfulness is a big deal. And that is because slothful ears keeps us form becoming who God created us to be. Which means we need to make sure we guard against slothfulness.

Well, I thought that to figure out how to guard against slothfulness it would be good for us to hear from a confessing sloth. Welcome the slothful sluggard, and Wheel of Fortune star known as Frankie Creel to the stage.

So you’re a confessing sloth?

What led you to see yourself as slothful?

What kind of consequences or impact has slothfulness had on your life?

What led you to do something about your slothfulness?

What would you say to people here about why they should guard against slothfulness?

Give Frankie a hand.

So what should you do?

1. Admit your slothfulness.

2. Confess it as a sin. It is a sin. Be specific.

3. Ask God to change you.

4. Do something. The opposite of slothfulness is diligence. Diligently do something productive in the area of your slothfulness.

Proverbs 6:6-8

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

Specifically, do something in your relationship with God. Develop the habit of spending time with God.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?

We’re going to my parent’s house on Thursday and guess what we’re going to be having? Ribs. Nothing like a traditional Thanksgiving feast of ribs. Never had that before.

But here’s what I know is going to be true about me on Thursday. I will end up eating more than I need to eat. And in all probability you’re going to end up eating more than you need to eat as well, right? That’s just what we do on Thanksgiving.

Well, the good news is that over-eating on Thanksgiving isn’t the fatal distraction known as gluttony. Gluttony is more than over-eating one day a year. But gluttony is something that many of us struggle with and we don’t even know it. Or we are afraid to admit it. Let me show you what I mean by giving you a definition for gluttony.

Gluttony can be defined as excessive indulgence in eating and/or drinking, a strong appetite for something beyond what you need. Gluttony is a result of demanding more pleasure from something than it was made for.

I read this week that the early church fathers described this deadly sin as a fixation on pleasuring the palate. The concern was not so much about overeating or drinking too much, but about an excessive focus on sensory pleasure. Sounds like our culture, right?

The problem for all of us is that this excessive focus on sensory pleasure becomes a fatal distraction. And there are two ways that gluttony is a fatal distraction for us. The first is that it undermines self-control. Self-control and gluttony are ferocious opponents. Gluttony erodes our willpower, determination, and self-control which leads to all kinds of consequences.

But the bigger distraction of gluttony is that we look for something like food or drink to satisfy us instead of looking for God to satisfy us.

What sets gluttony apart from just eating a big meal at Thanksgiving is that gluttony is not an eating problem. it is a heart problem. We look for something to satisfy us other than God. We look to food or we look to alcohol to satisfy us instead of looking to God. Which is why it is a fatal distraction.

Now I need to say, eating good food and drinking a beer or a glass of wine isn’t the problem. Nowhere are we told in the Bible that drinking is a sin. Which if you grew up Baptist then you might think is a heretical statement. Scripture is clear that getting drunk is a sin, but not drinking alcohol. Jesus did turn water into wine. Also, nowhere in the Bible are we told that eating good food is a sin. I think good food is a gift from God.

The problem, however, comes when we excessively indulge in food or alcohol so much that it controls us and that we look to it to satisfy us instead of looking to God.

I want to show you a few passages that talk about gluttony.

Proverbs 23:19-21 – Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Basically Solomon warns us against drunkenness and gluttony by saying there are consequences. We know there are consequences, right? We could list them out. There’s alcoholism, DUI, liver disease, obesity, heart disease. Gluttony is a fatal distraction that has a physical effect on us. Look at this next verse.

Proverbs 28:7 He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

In other words, gluttony affects other people. You’re not the only one impacted by your gluttony. Not only does it affect you physically, other people suffer. The consequences of gluttony affect us and those around us.

That’s why the Apostle Paul writes this in his first letter to the church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 6:12  Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

This is such a powerful passage. Sure, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Meaning, even though you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. It may be bad for you. And then Paul says we can do anything, the problem comes when we’re mastered or controlled by what we eat or drink. And we all know people who are mastered by food or alcohol. It controls them. It may control you.

It’s clear to see that this a pretty serious issue, right?

So that leaves us asking: How do we guard against gluttony? How do we cultivate a desire for God that’s stronger than our desire for food?

Jesus makes a statement in Luke 9:23 that is one of the most challenging statements he ever made. And while this statement says nothing about gluttony, per se, it holds the key for how we can guard against gluttony and cultivate a desire for God that is stronger than a desire for food.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Read that out loud with me: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Now, look at the first part of the verse. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me.” That means that what he is saying here is to those who want to be his follower. Which means, if you aren’t a follower of Jesus or you don’t want to be Jesus’ follower then you don’t have to do this. It’s not for you. You can do it. I would recommend you try it out. What do you have to lose? The Psalmist says for us to taste and see that The Lord is good. But you don’t have to do this. But, for those of us who call ourselves Christians, here’s Jesus’ instruction on how we can guard against gluttony.

Let’s break this apart because in this one sentence from Jesus we find three things that we can do to guard against the fatal distraction of glutton. It begins with denying ourselves.

What does it mean to deny yourself? It means that you deny yourself. That you intentionally don’t eat, drink or do certain things. Here’s the deal: I have to deny myself or I will eat ice cream 7 days a week. Why do I limit my ice cream intake? Because God commanded it? No. Because I will gain weight.

The problem for most of us is that we do the opposite of denying ourselves, don’t we? We indulge ourselves.

But Jesus said that for those who want to be his followers we must deny ourselves. How do we do that?

To be honest, this is so hard to do in our over-indulgent culture which is why I think the best thing we can do to deny ourselves is to incorporate the discipline of fasting into our lives. I heard Mark Batterson say one time that he thinks the only way we can intentionally deny ourselves in the culture we live in is to fast. To intentionally go without food for a specified period of time, be it a meal or a day.

In fact, I want to encourage you to fast this week. Pick a meal or a day and deny yourself food.

Denying yourself has another aspect as well. It contains the idea that your focus isn’t entirely on you, which means that you should live as an others-centered person. Most of the time our focus is solely on ourselves. Deny thinking of yourself and think of someone else.

So the first thing Jesus tells us to do that can guard against gluttony is to deny ourselves.

Next Jesus tells us to take up our cross.

This may be tricky for us to understand in our culture because we wear crosses for jewelry, but everybody in Jesus audience knew what Jesus meant when He said take up his cross. They knew that the cross was an unrelenting instrument of death. We have sanitized and ritualized the cross in 2000 years after Jesus. The cross was a way to execute people.

Which means taking up your cross wasn’t a journey; it was a one-way trip. And it was a one-way trip to death. Jesus is calling us to die to ourselves. He’s calling us to die to our rights. In the context of gluttony, he’s calling us to die to our excessive desires for food and drink.

We don’t want to do that, do we? We want what we want when we want it. But foundational to being a disciple of Jesus is death to ourselves. It’s a call to die.

And then notice Jesus says for us to take up our cross daily. This isn’t a one-and-done thing. This is a death to ourselves that we die daily.

Finally he tells us to follow him.

After Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and die to ourselves he then tells us to replace our desires with something: Following him. Replace it with a hunger and thirst for Jesus. Jesus says to follow him.

Are you following Jesus?

Do you know why I think many Christians struggle with gluttony? It’s because we’re not really following Jesus. Maybe we believe a lot of stuff about Jesus. Sure, we have a compartment for Jesus in our lives, but we’ve never fully surrendered our lives to following him.

What does that mean?

It means we have to have a relationship with Jesus that is characterized by doing what he tells you to do. I’m convinced that some of you know a lot about Jesus, but you don’t really know Jesus.

That relationship is made possible because Jesus died and rose from the dead.

And then following Jesus in relationship has huge implications for how we live. It means we need to develop and invest in that relationship. It means we do what he says we should do. It means we submit our lives to the teachings of Scripture.

The two best things you can do to follow Jesus is spend time in his Word and get in a Hub Group.

Here’s what I want you to do:

  • Fast
  • Put someone else first.
  • Read the scripture reading.
  • Get in a Hub Group

Lust. Just mentioning the word brings tension in the room. I’ve actually had a couple of you say you are literally afraid of today’s message. So to put all of us at ease I thought it would be good if we just went around the room and each confessed our most graphic, lustful thought. Who wants to go first?

Just kidding. I don’t want to know your most graphic lustful thought and neither does the person sitting next to you. But the truth is, there is someone here who knows what all of your lustful thoughts are. That person is you.

You also know the shame and guilt associated with your lust. You know how much of a fatal distraction lust is for you. Most of you live with it on a daily basis. This is one of those topics that all of us struggle with.

So with that in mind, we’re going to look at the most famous story of lust in the Bible. We discussed this story in my Hub Group last Sunday and I learned a lot from the people in my group. That’s why you need to be in a Hub Group. But this story is found in 2 Samuel 11-12. It’s the story of David and Bathsheba.

Let me set the stage, David is the King of Israel at this time. God chose him to be king. Now, this is the same David that wrote most of the Psalms. This is a story from his life as king. Let’s pick up the story in verse 1 of chapter 11.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the kings men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

In other words, even though it was the time when kings go off to war, David, the king, didn’t go off to war. He stayed at home. We will come back to that.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful,

Here’s the situation, one day after a nap David went for a walk on his rooftop balcony where he just happened to see a woman taking a bath. Now, before you wonder why this woman was on the roof taking a bath you need to know that this was normal in that day because the roof was the most private place around. And since the palace was on a hill and higher than the other houses it made it easy for David to see what he saw. And he saw a naked woman taking a bath.

Seeing the naked woman wasn’t lust. We know there was lust involved because he looked at her long enough to tell she was beautiful and as we will see, then decided to do something with what he saw. That is where the lust came in. But noticed what preceded the lust. David stayed at home when he was supposed to be at war. He was being lazy. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

A lack of discipline, boredom and being in places and situations that you shouldn’t be in set the stage for lust. That’s exactly what happened to David.

But at this point in the story David is faced with a choice. A choice towards fulfilling his lust or resisting his lust. So what does he do?

3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, Isnt this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

When tempted with lust David chose to pursue the object of his lust. And next we see how the choice he made takes him somewhere.

 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. Then she went back home.

What we see here is that David’s pursuit of his lust led him down a path. This path led to adultery. He ended up sleeping with someone else’s wife.

Now, before we go any further in David’s story I need to say something important about lust. Lust isnt a problem you solve. Its an appetite you manage.

You may not believe this, but God created lust, and he said it was good, but only in the proper context. When God created the first husband and wife, Adam and Eve, he said that they would become one flesh. I’m pretty sure some lust was involved in that. Sex and lust are a package deal.

If it weren’t for lust you wouldn’t have been born. If it weren’t for lust you probably wouldn’t have gotten married. In fact, lust is a vitally important part of a healthy marriage, but only when it is lust that is focused on the person you’re married to.

However, misdirected lust, unfocused lust, lust that is directed towards someone who is not your spouse, is dangerous. It takes you somewhere. It takes you down a path to disaster. And nowhere in Scripture is that more clearly illustrated that with David. Let’s go back to his story.

5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, I am pregnant.

That’s what happens, right? But not only does she get pregnant, as a result of the pregnancy David came up with a plan to cover up the pregnancy.

Remember, Bathsheba’s husband was a soldier named Uriah. He had been fighting on the front lines against the Ammonites. But when David realized that Bathsheba was pregnant he had Uriah brought home hoping that Uriah would go home, do what husband’s and wives do, and then his little problem would be taken care of.

The problem, however, was that Uriah wouldn’t go home, sleep with his wife, and sleep in his own bed when his fellow soldiers were living in tents on the battlefield. So instead of going home he slept at the gate of the palace.

David then came up with plan B. Get Uriah drunk and certainly he will go home, sleep in his own bed and sleep with his wife. But a drunk Uriah still didn’t go home. So David came up with plan C.

Plan C involved sending Uriah back into battle on the front lines. He sent word to Uriah’s commanding officer to put Uriah where the battle was the fiercest, and then to pull back when the fighting got really bad so that Uriah would be killed. And that’s what happened.

What started as David accidentally seeing a naked woman taking a bath led to murder. Lust takes you down a path with fatal consequences. But for David, there was more. If you skip over to chapter 12 we find out that God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David about this sin. And part of the confrontation involved other consequences. God speaks to David through Nathan the prophet and says:

9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.

11 This is what the Lord says: Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.

Now remember, all of this started with David seeing a naked woman taking a bath on her roof. But you can see where lust takes him. It took him from wanting someone that wasn’t his to adultery to cover up to conspiracy to murder to the most dysfunctional family in the Bible.

Lust takes us somewhere. Lust takes us down a path with fatal consequences. Now, hopefully, the consequences of your lust won’t be murder, but there are consequences. And I know that you are tempted to think that this will never happen to you. I am sure David had no idea where his lust would take him. But it took him down a fatal path with fatal consequences, and it will do the same for us.

What are some consequences of our lust?

Mistrust.

Jealousy.

Anger.

Images you can’t get out of your head.

A lack of self control. When you choose to give in to lust it is easier to choose to give in the next time.

Broken family.

A lack of intimacy. I believe that what you want most in a relationship with your spouse is intimacy. You want to be fully known and loved. But lust, and where it leads, moves you away from the intimacy you desire most. On the other hand, purity paves the way for intimacy.

Misplaced and misdirected lust takes us down a path to fatal consequences.

And the truth is, all of us are susceptible to lust. All of us could wander down that path. Some of us already have and we’re living with the consequences of misplaced lust. So how do we guard against it?

First, admit and acknowledge your lust. Don’t pretend like you don’t have a problem.

Second, confess your lust immediately. Don’t let there be time in between your lust and your confession.

Third, be careful with your surroundings. Don’t intentionally put yourself into situations where you know you’ll be tempted.

Fourth, develop the habit of bouncing your eyes. I learned this from a book called, Every Mans Battle. All the men in this room need to buy this book. One thing that they talk about is that whenever you see an attractive person, to immediately bounce your eyes and look somewhere else.

Fifth, maximize lust in the proper context. The only proper context is marriage. Which means you need to have sex with your spouse often. Yes, I did say that in church. This also means that if you’re not married yet, then you need to redirect your passions. Use your time and energy to pursue God. The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for a healthy marriage is to develop a healthy relationship with Jesus. And the best thing you can do to keep your marriage healthy is to pursue a healthy relationship with Jesus.

Finally, if you’re struggling, don’t struggle alone. Talk with someone. David found forgiveness when the sin was brought out in the open. Look at chapter 12.

13 Then David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.  Nathan replied, The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

I don’t want you to leave here discouraged and hopeless. I want you to leave here knowing that there is a God who forgives.

But he forgives and says, “God and sin no more.” He doesn’t want us to stay in our fatal sin patterns. He wants to set us free.

Misdirected lust is fatal. It takes you down a path with fatal consequences. Let God deal with you this week about this issue. That’s why ill be sending out scripture readings each day. You need Gods help.

Finally, do what I said to guard against lust.

Imagine if you were to go to work tomorrow and your boss were to come in and give you a raise. That would be awesome, wouldn’t it? What would you do with the extra? You probably have a list, or you could come up with a list. The truth is, some of you aren’t going to hear any more of my talk because you’ll be fantasizing about what you’d do with the extra.

Now, think about those things on your list. How many of them are needs? Probably none. Most of them are wants. And the reason that is true is that we live in the richest country on the planet. We have everything we need. All of us do. We may not have as much as someone else, but we’re not like those starving Haitians we saw at the mass grave outside of Port-au-Prince. We have food to eat, shelter, clothes, TV, a cell phone with a texting plan and probably a data plan. We have choices about what we’ll have for lunch and supper. We have more than we need.

But even though we have more than we need, all of us want more. That’s called greed. Let me give you a definition of greed. Greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs. Greed is not limited to a fixation on material wealth, but could also include the pursuit of power and position.

Here’s what’s interesting: At the root of greed is fear. It is the fear of “what if…” Deep down in that dark place we don’t want to explore we fear God can’t or won’t take care of us. And if God can’t take care of us then gosh darn-it we’d better take care of ourselves.

But that is a dangerous line of thinking and when you go down that path there’s a fatal consequence. See, what makes greed a fatal distraction is that, since you have this “what if” fear that God might not take care of you, you turn your attention and focus towards alleviating that fear and end up focusing entirely on you. You cannot focus on you and God at the same time. It’s not possible. So over time, as you focus on yourself, you loose focus and eventual desire for God.

Now, before I go any further I need to make a very important disclaimer. What we’re going to talk about from this point forward is a teaching from Jesus aimed at, or focused on, those of us who would call ourselves Christians. If you are not a Christian then the good news is that you don’t have to do anything I say today. Now, you can do it. I actually believe that it will be helpful in breaking the hold that greed might have on your life, but you don’t have to do it.

However, if you’re a Christian then this story from Jesus isn’t just some good advice or a suggestion. Jesus is very clear about what we need to do to get rid of and guard against greed. That means it will probably make you uncomfortable. Actually, I guarantee it will make you uncomfortable. But my favorite quote lately is, “We get to choose whether we want to follow Jesus, but we don’t get to choose what it looks like to follow Jesus.” This is what it looks like to follow Jesus out of the fatal distraction of greed. And I know this is one of those topics that we wish Jesus didn’t address, but he does. And the reason he does is because he knows, and we know, that greed is fatal. So let’s look at a story from the life of Jesus that deals directly with this fatal distraction.

The story is found in Luke 12. Jesus had been teaching the crowds when this dude comes up to him, basically interrupting him and asks this:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.

Talk about a weird, out of the blue, question. But here’s the situation. According to this guy, he and his brother were caught up in an argument with one another concerning an inheritance. I guess he didn’t feel like he was getting his fair share. So, he decides to get Jesus to side with him and rule in his favor. But Jesus never gets roped into taking sides, so instead of taking sides, Jesus goes directly to the root of the guy’s problem.

14 Jesus replied, Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?

In other words, “Man, I’m not getting involved.”

15 Then he said to them, Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed

All kinds of greed? What do you mean Jesus? Do you mean there are various types of greed. Well, yes. Like we said in the definition: Greed can include material wealth, but also power and position. But Jesus goes on to describe a very specific type of greed. It’s the type of greed most of us struggle with. It’s the type of greed that, if not acknowledged and confessed and dealt with, will be fatal to our relationship with God.

a mans life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

Jesus addresses money and stuff. And basically says: Life is more than a collection of stuff. Now we know that. We say that. But most of us live like life is a collection of stuff. We always want more than what we have. We want the next best thing. Some people even live lives that keep score of what we have and don’t have. That was this guy’s problem. So Jesus launches into a story to expose this guy’s greed.

16 And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.

So get this. This rich farmer had a bumper crop. It was more than he expected or needed. His good fortune left him with a dilemma:

17 He thought to himself, What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.

He had too many crops for too little storage. Sounds like a good problem to have, right? So, what’s a man to do in his situation?

18 Then he said, This is what Ill do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And Ill say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

This guy gives us a perfect example of how a greedy person sees life. A greedy person sees what they have this way – they’ve earned it and it’s theirs. And since they’ve earned it they never consider the notion God had anything to do with it. Therefore, he never thinks to ask, “Lord what do you want to do with the extra?”

That’s not how greedy people think. To be honest, that’s not how I think most of the time. When I get something extra I think, ‘Lucky me.” Like this landowner I can always come up with something to do with the extra. But what if, when we have extra, when we get a raise, when we get a gift, what if we started asking, “Lord what do you what me to do with the extra?” In fact, let’s try that together, everyone say with me, “Lord, what do you want me to do with the extra?

But that’s not how greedy people think, and that’s not how this guy thought. His focus was solely on himself. Actually 9 times in verses 18-19 he refers to himself.

And basically what he does is he justifies his greed by making it out to be something good. He worked hard. He was responsible. And he’s reaping the rewards of his labor.

Which sounds good. He sounds like someone Dave Ramsey might highlight on his radio show as a great saver. But his saving was a cover up for a problem in his heart: The problem of greed. So look what God says:

20 But God said to him, You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?

This farmer planned ahead, but he didn’t plan far enough ahead. He only thought of himself and this life. He forgot that there is more to this life than living for ourselves. He forgot that this life is preparation for eternity.

Jesus then finishes the parable with a warning:

21 This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.

That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it? But it leaves us asking: How can we be rich toward God? None of us wants to end up like this farmer. None of us want God to call us fools. So how do we stop storing up things for ourselves and start being rich towards God? If you skip down to verse 33 Jesus tells us.

33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

The way to be rich towards God is to help those less fortunate than us and store up treasure in heaven. Another way to think about it is that we need to strategically and systematically invest in something that is outside of us and that will outlast us. I’ll talk about how to do that in just a minute.

34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Here is a truth that will transform how you view this whole issue. God doesn’t want your money. God wants your heart. But God knows that the way to your heart is through your money. So if you’ll change the place your money goes then your heart will move toward the same place. God is interested in your heart.

Greed is a heart issue. We’re trusting in ourselves rather than God. That’s why greed will kill your relationship with God. And here’s how I know that: I’ve seen more people leave our church over this issue than any other. Some of you may never come back again because we’re talking about this. Some of you will leave mad today because we’re talking about this. Do you know why you’ll never come back or leave mad? Because greed is a fatal distraction and you’re greedy.

So, to deal with and guard against greed we need to strategically and systematically invest in something that is outside of us and that will outlast us. You need to develop the discipline and habit of giving into your life. Generosity breaks the hold greed has on our hearts. And here’s a plan for you:

Give strategically and systematically to break the power of greed.

Strategically – this means on purpose. We must be intentional about investing in someone or something that is outside of us and that will outlast us and that will build God’s kingdom. Giving to Hub City is strategic because giving to a local church is a way to build God’s kingdom. Give to Alex’s House. We’re building God’s kingdom in Haiti. Don’t give to stupid things. Is this building God’s kingdom and is this helping those less fortunate than me?

Systematically disciplined, regular and consistent. Giving shouldn’t be random and hit or miss. That’s why God tells us to bring the tithe and offerings. These are systematic ways to give. The tithe is the first 10%. This is commanded for God’s people. If you are not a Christian this is not required for you. But it is a requirement for Christians. It is an issue of obedience. We should obediently give God the first 10%. Also, throughout the Bible, we’re also told to give offerings over and above the tithe. An example of an offering is our Year End Gift Offering for missions. In scripture it’s a both/and but sometimes we make it either/or.

How can you strategically and systematically invest in something that is outside of you and that will outlast you?

Here’s how that works for my family. We believe that the tithe should go to the local church. So that’s what we do. But we also give offerings that are over and above the tithe. We give to the year end gift offering. We give to help other organizations when needs arise. We give to support two missionaries who work with college students in Kentucky. But those gifts are over and above our tithes that we give to Hub City.

How can you strategically and systematically invest in something that is outside of you and that will outlast you?

If you want to break the hold of greed in your life then you need to give to something outside of you and that will outlast you. You need to give a tithe and an offering.

I have seen the fatal power of greed. I don’t want you to be a victim.

On top of that, if you consider yourself a follower of Jesus then the He’s pretty clear.

Before you argue with me I want you to answer these questions:

•            Have you ever met a generous person who wasn’t happy?

•            Have you ever met a greedy people who was really happy?