Asking for a Friend
How Can I Know God's Plan for My Life?
Garrett Raburn | 08.21.18
Do you ever wonder what God’s plan is for your life? What’s next? What career path should you take? Who should you date and marry? Should you move cities? In this message, we look at both the revealed and secret will of God and how to navigate the grey areas.
Good evening, everybody. So glad that you're here, so glad that you're either here in this room with me right now or you're in the room where you are, maybe in your car listening through the app. We are so glad you are a part of this movement of God called The Porch. We're in this series called Asking for a Friend, which is a series where we take on some of the questions that are kind of hard to get really clear answers to. Tonight we're going to talk about…What is the will of God for my life?
All of the thousands of you are going to know exactly what to do next after this message. Okay, clearly not. We can't do that much work, but what we can do is approach the topic. I want to start here. We've been in 90s mode around here, because we're going to have a little thing called LAUNCH Retreat really, really soon. If you're not going, you can go to Awaken Conference. We're going to step it up next year anyway, if you didn't make it around this time.
We've all been in this 90s theme that we're going to do at LAUNCH over Labor Day weekend, which has us thinking about stuff like this. Do you guys remember this? Oh yeah. I know there are three people right now who God loves who don't know what this is, and I want to make sure that all three of you know exactly what this is. This is a game called MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House).
This is where you fill out the card with some of the options for your life, get some good ones on there, get some bad ones on there…your mood, your house, your car, the boy you want to be with or the girl you want to be with or don't want to be with. It all makes the list, and then random chance happens. If you didn't play MASH, maybe I could get you interested with one of these. Do you guys know this? Oh yeah. People just taunt you with this stuff. Somebody comes up to you, and they're like, "I know who you're going to marry. Pick a color."
"All right. Blue."
"All right. B-L-U-E. Pick a number."
"One, two. Pick another number."
"Oh, Sheila. Ha-ha-ha!"
People just hate on you something terrible. It's like, "Man!" We're curious people about our future. (If your name is Sheila, I'm sure you're fabulous. I was just picking a name.) We're naturally curious at a young age about our future. It's funny. Maybe you've seen one of these. Oh yeah. Some people are sitting at home right now shaking this thing instead of coming to The Porch. You're like, "Okay, am I going to be rich or not?" "Answer hazy; ask later."
Even at a young age, we're really curious about our future. We're curious what the will of God might be for our lives. We're curious what the secret future we hope to unlock might be. This is normal. You're a kid. There's no chance you're going to get married. Why would you even think about this? But even then we're curious about it. Here's the thing: we don't grow out of this. We're still curious what our next years might look like, aren't we? Except now, curveball (this is hard), you're an active decision-maker in that.
That's a lot of pressure, because now it's not just a game with a piece of paper on a playground where you're like, "Oh, that's awesome," or it's really bad and you just laugh it off and move on. Now the decisions you make as you try to plot your way to the future actually count. They go on the board of your life, and they stay there. Now you're an active participant. What that creates is a little thing called anxiety.
One of the biggest things we hear consistently is, "I feel anxious about my future, whether it's related to my job or related to my marital life I hope exists one day or whether it relates to my family life or whether it relates to my current habits I'm trying to break or build. I just don't know the will of God for my life, and I have a decision that's pressing down on me." This is normal. Even if you count yourself a follower of Jesus, even if you're here and you'd say, "Yes, I am trying to seek God's will for my life; that's an active pursuit," it can still be hard.
When we get stuck, we have a bad habit of making up weird stuff to try to clarify things for ourselves, like, "Okay, who should I ask on a date? Okay, God. If she smiles at me, it's her. That's who it's going to be." We do these strange things. We just grab our Bible, and we're like, "Okay, God. Whatever I read next is going to help me." Boom! We just open it, and it says something like, "Jehoram was 32 years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years. He passed away to no one's regret."
You're looking at it, trying to make it work, like, "Well, I'm 32 and regret it, I guess. I don't know. I'm trying to make this happen." We don't have any way. Then you think, "Okay, you know what? I've been saved, because the great theologian Drake has come out with a song called 'God's Plan.'" Then you listen to it, and it is not indeed about God's plan, so you're still stuck.Finding God's will for your life is a hard pursuit. It's a difficult thing.
As we dive into this message, I just want to disappoint you early. If you have a really specific decision, I am not going to be able to tell you exactly what you should do next in a difficult-to-decipher situation. It's a difficult-to-decipher situation. Some of you, if you hang onto every word, trying to ask, "Is he saying I should turn in my resignation letter or is he saying I should go ask for a raise?" you need to listen and understand what I'm going to try to do tonight is not answer all of your toughest questions, because that would kind of be insulting. They're tough questions.
What I'm going to try to do is give you a process where you can answer them, over time, by the will of God. "What's the will of God for my life?" I'm going to aim to answer three questions tonight. No vagueness, no weirdness, no Grandma's wisdom, no signs in the clouds. How do I find God's will? I'm going to try to answer three questions really clearly.
First, "How do I find the secret will of God?" What do I mean by the "secret will of God"? The will of God that he has planned for you that you don't know about yet. The secret will of God, the stuff you're naturally curious about, the decisions you have to make that you hope turn out really great, the blessings you hope you have. The secret will of God.
Secondly, "How do I find the revealed will of God?" If he has already said something, that would be helpful. If he has already left a few breadcrumbs on the trail of what we should be doing, that would be a helpful place to start. So, secondly, I'm going to answer, "How do I find the revealed will of God?"
Then thirdly, "How do I navigate the gray areas?" Where it's not black and white, it doesn't seem like there's a clear "yes" or a clear "no" from God or the Bible. What do I do in a gray area? Again, I may not be able to give you an answer, but I'm going to provide a process from the Scripture tonight. Let's jump in together.
1._ "How do I find the secret will of God?"_ I would love to go to one particular verse. It's very old. It's in Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible. I'd love for us to get a look at it as we think through, "What is the secret will of God, and how do I find it?" I find this verse helpful, because it at least acknowledges the problem. You'll enjoy this. If you feel the pressure of a decision or you don't know what God wants you to do next with your life, this will help. Here comes Deuteronomy 29:29, the first half of it.
"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever…" That's helpful, because the Scripture at least is acknowledging that that exists. You're not supposed to know everything. The writer of this passage, Moses, 3,500 years ago…he didn't know everything. He didn't know everything that was going to happen in his life, his kids' lives, his grandkids' lives, the nation of Israel's life. There was so much he didn't know, and he just had to say, "Some things are secret. They're closed to you. There's a lock on this. This is God's knowledge in here."
This closed trunk represents the secret things that belong to God. Included in here is everything God knows that you don't know and can't yet know, and also in here are all of your hopes, the hopes you hope are in the will of God…how awesome your spouse is going to be one day, how much money your husband is going to make one day. All that secret hope you have and you don't know if it's the will of God? It's right there.
Are you going to be able to successfully move up in your career? Are you going to be able to succeed in the environments you hope you can succeed in? Are people going to like you? Are you going to get to live a significant amount of time? Is your life going to be cut short? All of these things are unknown by you. They're locked to you, but God knows them, which isn't a solution, but it at least acknowledges that we have a limitation.
It says, "…but the things that are revealed belong to us…" God hasn't kept everything a secret. He hasn't decided to completely conceal everything. There are some things you should really know. The revealed things belong to you. They're for you. They're for you and your kids forever. The secret things are God's. We don't know how our future is going to turn out, but there are some things that have already been revealed.
Let's be honest. It's interesting over here. Anybody ever want to hover around this? "God, I wonder. God, I wonder what you're going to do." It's easy to hover right here, but look at what the Scripture says in the second part of Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong to God. The things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, and then look at this closely: "…that…" In other words, so that. "…we may do all the words of this law."
What does he mean? Well, Deuteronomy is a book of the law. It's a book of God's revealed will. The word nom means law. Deutero-nom-y. The book of Deuteronomy is a book of God's will. Close to the end of this book of God's will, the author says, "Look, there are some things we don't know; there are some things we do know."
Conclusion: we're going to get really frustrated about the things we don't know, and we're going to really sweat it, and we're really going to get anxious, and we're really going to get worried, and we're really going to ask God to let us into this. "God, I really need to know now." No. The reason it works like this is not so we can complain or be frustrated or be filled with anxiety or paralysis by analysis and just get nervous and let our lives collapse under the pressure.
No, he says the things that are revealed belong to us so we can focus our energy here, so we can spend our time thinking about what we do know, not panicking over what we don't know. By the way, this should be one of your first memory verses right now. Like, the first verse you ever memorize, if you've never memorized a verse start to finish, you should memorize this one, because it will tell you that your energy and focus should go here.
Here's what we like to do right now. "Okay, it says right there, 'Flee from sexual immorality.' I'm going to keep sleeping with my boyfriend, but then I'm going to go over here and be like, 'God, is he the one? Could it be? Is this my husband? Is this the person I'm supposed to be with?'" We like to do stuff like this. It says, "You cannot serve God and money." God made that really clear. You can't serve God and money. It's impossible.
But you think, "Oh no, no, no. Don't worry about that. I have to make millionaire before 30, understand. So, God, out here, are you going to give me a lot of money later so I can be generous later?" You look past what God has already said, hoping to go get some more of what you say you want. It sounds like God language. You're like, "Oh, God's will, God's will. It's all about you, God," but you're passing up what God's will already has been said to you. You've already missed it. This happens in all kinds of areas.
It says in the Scripture, "Whatever you do, work for the Lord and not for men." Whatever you do. So whatever your job is, work hard. Whatever you do, work as to the Lord and not to men. We go, "Oh, okay. No, my boss is a sinner, so you must not understand, God. But am I going to get to be the boss one day? I wonder." We wreck our lives…no exaggeration…because we're so curious about the secret will of God.
The Scripture could not be any more clear. This is interesting and important. The things you hope for yourself are important to God. That's why they're in there. You just can't know them. The Scripture could not be more clear. Focus your energy right here. Look right here. What has God said, and what could you do today to be faithful?
There was a time in my life when I was struggling with this in a significant way. Before age 21, I didn't really care about the will of God. I just kind of did whatever I wanted. Before I was 16, I had already dabbled in drugs, sex, porn, and alcohol. I'd kind of gone as far as I could go while still being able to live under my father's roof. Thank God for him, who kept me standing up at least a little straight.
I went pretty much as far as a teenager can go under the influence of my older brother and the wrong crowd. That's the direction I went. I didn't care anything about the will of God. I would have never said that. By the time I got to my early 20s, I'd become a believer. I embraced grace for my past. I started to try to walk with Christ. What started to happen was I started to care about the will of God. I started to care about this conversation we're having.
Naturally, I went straight over here. "God, what do you want to do through my life?" I'd pace my kitchen. No lie. My roommates could tell you. I would pace my kitchen. I'm talking about late at night. I'm like, "I want to do something great for God." I would say this out loud. That may not sound humble. It's probably not. I would just say, "I want to do something great for God." All this angsty energy.
"I just want to do something great for God. I don't know what I should do, though. What should I do? Should I do this? Should I do that? I just graduated college, and I want to do something for God. What should I do?" Well, a few years later, I ended up getting to serve here at Watermark in the residency program. Our senior pastor, Todd, took us all to breakfast at one point so we could get some time with him and hear, take some notes on what he had to share with us as we were going through this residency program.
At that breakfast… He was sitting right across from me. He said, "You know, here's another thing. I hear these young guys say they want to do something great for God." I looked back at him like, "Unbelievable. I can't… Infants. Wow." He said, "Do you know what I never hear? I never hear somebody say, 'You know what I want to do? I just want to be faithful today. That's what I want to do with my life. I want to be faithful today. I'll figure out tomorrow when it gets here, but I just want to be faithful today.'"
It was one of those moments where I didn't want to say anything because I knew I had been making the exact error he was just talking about, looking me right in the face. It was a moment I'll never forget, because I realized, "I am expending a huge amount of energy right now trying to get into the next specific thing God is trying to tell me," which is not a bad prayer to ask, "God, what's your will for my life?" but if I'm obsessing over me, eventually it starts to become clear I'm obsessing over me, when God has given me plenty to obsess over right here.
Our friend JP said this in a really clear way that I think is really helpful. He has a book coming out, by the way, September 4. It's extremely exciting. This is called Welcome to Adulting. Very, very helpful. You should definitely pick it up. I'm not just saying that because he's my friend. I'm saying it because this content is a shaping of the Word of God that changed my life. Here's the way he says it. I can't say it any better than this.
"You might think it's arrogant that I could claim to know the plan for your life. However, what I've realized is that God has a plan for everyone's life, but most people ignore it. They know the basic things God wants everyone to do, but they choose not to do them. And if you ignore the general plan God has already made clear, why should he bother to give you more specific instructions?"
Why would it be that we would think God is going to reveal something to us when we aren't listening to what he already revealed? Let's be honest. I'm not trying to hit you over the head, but let's be honest. If you're on your knees praying, "God, please show me what to do. God, please show me what to do. God, please show me what to do" when you are in a willful rebellion against what he has shown you to do, why would you think he's going to give you more revelation? Why would you think he's going to unlock doors for you if you're not willfully engaging in what he's telling you to do?
You find the secret will of God by obeying the obvious will of God today. That's how you get started. If you want to know the secret will of God for your life, you get started by obeying the obvious will of God today. Don't be weighed down by anxiety. Anxiety and obsession about the future… It's always a trap, and sometimes it's just narcissism, frankly, because we're obsessed over our own little thing. We want to know it's going to look just right out there in the future, the way we want it to. "God, is it going to work out the exact way I want?"
The answer is, I don't know. I know it's not going to work out the way God wants if you don't start here with the Scripture. Find the secret will of God by starting with the obvious will of God. So, we should start. Well, where do I start? The Bible is a little bit overwhelming, wouldn't you agree? Sixty-six books, all of these pages, all of these different things. It's unclear sometimes as to what you should actually do when you read it.
2._ "How do I find the revealed will of God?"_ At this point we should be asking, "What is the revealed will of God? If that's my step one, if that's where I should start, where do I start? Because it's a long book. It's a set of books. Tell me where I start." What I want to do in this second point is give you a little starter kit, five areas of life that really matter to you and to God that you can know for sure is the will of God for you. If you're going, "Okay, look. I want to know God has my future in every single way, but pull out something helpful so I can know what I can start to do today," here it is.
A. Follow Jesus. John 14:21 (these are the words of Jesus): "If you love me, you'll obey my teaching." I love that, because he said it in a way we can understand. "If you love me, you'll obey my teaching." Not, "You'll come to The Porch, and then you'll go get drunk the next weekend." Not, "You'll come and pay lip service to me, lift your hands in worship, and then lift your hands to some other unholy desire you have in your life."
He's saying, "If you love me, obey my teaching." He's not talking about perfection, by the way, because he knows we're not perfect. He's perfect. He's talking about the right direction. "If you love me, obey my teaching." So follow Jesus. Don't try to be down with Jesus and also down with six Mambo Taxis. It's not going to happen. Don't try to do both. Be down with Jesus. Walk with him. Follow him.
B. Work hard no matter what your job is. Here's a place to start. Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work heartily [with your whole heart, with your whole soul] ,** as for the Lord and not for men…"** Not for people, in other words. This is saying something that's crazier than you think. It's saying you should treat your boss as if he or she was Jesus.
It's as if Jesus said to you, "Hey, can you put that on my desk by the morning?" It's as if Jesus is saying to you, "Hey, could you not be late anymore?" It's as if Jesus is saying to you, "Hey, you seem a little down. Could you have a little more chipper attitude? You know, company culture kind of matters." As if Jesus was saying these things to you. That's how we should respond. Follow Jesus. Work hard no matter what your job is.
C. Commit to a church. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them…" Obey your spiritual leaders. When it says "spiritual leaders" it's referring to the elders, the men who follow Christ here who also get a chance to lead us. Why? Because they have some secret access to God? No, because they pay attention so closely to what God has already said, for themselves and for us.
You should find some healthy biblical leaders. It doesn't have to be here. There are great churches everywhere, but find some healthy leaders you know are leading toward Christ and entrust your spirituality to them. Every one of us needs to be under authority. By the way, submitting to a church, committing to a church is distinctly different from critiquing a church.
Some of you are like a movie critic, church version. Everything you do, you just can't help it. Maybe it's a critical spirit, but you're just somehow in this rut of "Oh man, they need to really figure out the parking out here. This is really bad. It's hot. Should we even be doing this when it's hot? We have to walk a long way. That music was a little… I didn't hear any of my favorite songs. Then, oh my gosh, it's not even JP. Oh man." Don't worry; I'm glad to see you guys too.
Truly, it doesn't matter if you hear the thing you wanted to hear, if the coffee tastes the way you want it to taste, if your favorite communicator… It's okay to enjoy the teaching in the service of certain people. I certainly enjoy the service and teaching of the other people who stand up here, but I just want to tell you, it's about your access to God all the time, not about who's playing what role and whether it's to your liking.
Commit to a church. It's going to be imperfect. It's going to have bumps and bruises, and it's going to have problems, because after all, now you're in it. It is not going to be perfect. Imperfect people were there before you, of course. So find a church and just dive in.
D. Pursue sexual purity. This one kept me away from God for a long time. First Thessalonians 4:3-5. You know how sometimes you really want the Bible to be clear, and then it is clear and you're like, "I wish it wasn't so clear"? I had this experience when I was in high school. That happened to me. I literally walked in… It was a sexual purity night. That's what they were talking about.
This guy is up there talking about, "Listen. Sexual purity means no masturbation, no oral sex, definitely no hookups, and sexual pleasure and connection is between a man and a woman in marriage." I'm 17 years old listening to him, like, "Bro, you just shut down my whole operation. Dude, I've got nowhere to turn with you right now." Seriously. I'm making light of it, but my heart was in such a spiritual place that I heard this verse, and I walked out. I left.
There was a little time where all of my peers and all of the people who were in the rows around me could walk forward and make a pledge. "Yes, I agree to sexual purity with Christ." I walked upstream out of the back of the church, because I just thought, "You know what? I don't even care what's in this box for me. I can make up something better than God." That was where my heart was, and I thank God that he saved me from that and changed my mind.
Here's the verse: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification…" Let there be no doubt. This is the will of God: your sanctification. "…that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the [people] who do not know God…"
If you know God, if you're trying to follow Jesus, he wants you to handle your sexuality as if you know Jesus, who created sex for a place, for a purpose, and for a context. I'll tell you what. Coming out of a lot of sexual immorality… I'm not the guy without a past, as I just said, and I'm telling you, what happened to me is I just decided, "I'm going to test and see. Right now that sounds terrible, but I'm going to test and see."
Do you know what happened? Holiness and honor started to come into my life, and drama and discouragement started to leave my life, because that's what sexual sin is always going to turn into: some kind of drama or some kind of discouragement, because you weren't created for it. That's not why God made you that way. Pursue sexual purity. Lastly, what else is the revealed will of God? If we want to get into the secret will of God, if we want to find out what our future with God is and could be, what do we start with?
E. Do the right thing even if it costs you. First Peter 4:19: "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will…" That will tell you right there it is in the will of God that there will be some hard stuff in your life. Some people teach a terrible heresy that if you become a Christian, then everything just gets easy. No health problems. No money problems. No problems problems. You're just fine. That's what they teach, and it is false, because it says right here: "…let those who suffer according to God's will…"
There will be hardship in your life. I went to my brother's funeral. I went to my mom's funeral. I've seen hard stuff. I don't know if that's a lot to you or a little to you. I just know that suffering is going to happen even as a Christian. Listen to what it says. "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." Don't shut down the good just because the opposition or the hate comes from the other side.
Keep trusting God, and entrust yourself to him fully while you keep doing good. Here's what that means. If your boss comes to you and is like, "Look, man. I understand you've got the religion thing, but you're going to have to put that on the table for a second, because we go to this strip club every quarter for the getaway retreat. If you don't come to the strip club, you don't have a job." According to 1 Peter 4:19, your response is, "Well, it sounds like you just made my choice for me. I don't have a job, because I can't disobey what the Scripture tells me."
Ladies, if you start to get the vibe in a relationship… Maybe it's not said directly, but if you start to get the vibe in a relationship that it's like you either give sex or at least some sexual favors to keep him interested or he's disinterested, you should go ahead and disinterest yourself. You should go ahead and move away from that. Why? Because you would rather pay the cost of losing your relationship with a man, any man, than losing your relationship with God. It's not worth it.
Entrust yourself to God. It takes trust. I know that sounds like a leap in the dark. If you have some opposition in your face and you know what you have to do and you don't know how it's going to turn out, that's hard, but it is in the revealed will of God for you that you do the right thing when it costs you for the name and fame of Christ.
I'll just pause there. Five things: work, church, sexuality, spirituality…some major areas of life. Technically, the whole Bible is the revealed will of God. So anywhere you find a command in the Bible, you could get busy doing it, and that would be a good idea, but if you're like, "Just get me started, man," that might be enough for some of you to tackle for the rest of the year alone.
Think about this. How different would your life be if you just did those five things? Step into a world where that's you. Step into a world where it wasn't a democracy between you and Jesus anymore; it was just you did what he said. How much better would you sleep? How much more peace would you have? How much more respect would you find from other people?
How much do you wish your parents had done these things? How much do your siblings wish you would do these things? This is powerful stuff. You don't have to walk with Jesus 10 years to get to the good stuff. You can start right now. If you start to bring your life into the revealed will of God, there's no telling what he might do next.
3._ "How do I navigate the gray areas?"_ There's a revealed will of God. Sometimes it's black and white, and I should just do it. Great. We're saying that's the way I'm going to get in to find the future that God wants for me and the blessings I hope are there, but sometimes there are just gray issues in life. Let me give you an example. I'm wearing gray shoes right now. No coincidence. I have black ones. I have blue ones. God didn't whisper to me this morning, "Wear the gray ones."
Maybe God and you have that kind of connection. I don't know. I only hear God speak when I read the Bible out loud, to quote a friend. I don't know if you hear from God in that way, but I just picked, and I felt free to do it. But what happens when the gray decision gets a little more serious? Like, "Who should I marry?" The only black and white thing the Bible really says about that is don't marry an unbeliever, if you're a follower of Christ, and then it tells you what character looks like. In a woman, specifically, in Proverbs 31, and in a man, pretty much throughout the rest of the Bible. After that it's like, "Happy hunting."
"Who should I marry?" I don't know. I have to tell you, God didn't wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me my wife's name whenever we were dating or single. I didn't get woken up in the middle of the night like, "Psst! It's Gabi." That never happened. What happened was I could see that her character seemed to match the character God said was important, and over time it became clear, but it was gray for a time until, of course, I got to know her and it was clarified that that would be a good idea and honoring to God.
Some of you are like, "I don't know whether to quit my job or not. That's gray. It seems like I could find some biblical reasons to do that. I could also find some justifications to stay." That's a heavier gray decision, if you will, not specifically called out in Scripture. So what do you do? I want to give you four questions you can ask yourself to help you get an answer. I don't know for your situation, because I don't know what it is, but I can give you a few questions that will help clarify for you "Should I…?"
"Should I go on vacation with my boyfriend or girlfriend? Should I marry my boyfriend or girlfriend? Should I go to this specific bachelor party?" You can think up other examples that are relevant to your life that I'm not creative enough to come up with. Here are a few questions you could ask yourself.
A. "Will it be good for my faith?" Will it be a step in the right direction for my spirituality? First Corinthians 10:23 says, "All things may be lawful, but not all things edify [or build up]." There may be something that you'd go, "Hey, that place in town? The Bible doesn't say, 'Don't go there,' but it's not good for me. I just know in my most honest moment it's not good for me." There are things you can eat, drink, and do that the Bible might not specifically say no to, but if you are going to have your most honest moment with God, they're not good for you.
Should you go to the bachelor party? I don't know. Is it your Community Group guys who you've been tracking with and who love God and you guys are going to go get away and it's going to be a really encouraging time for all of you and you guys are going to pray for the guy you're sending off to marriage and you're going to come back ready to pray for a godly spouse and be more like the guy you're sending off? That doesn't sound problematic.
Is it the college buddies that you know what kind of environment it's going to be and you suspect that maybe God is not doing everything in their lives that God is trying to urge you to do and you know when you get there the magnetism and the momentum of that old friend group is going to move you in the wrong direction? Is it that? Maybe not, but you have to figure that out for yourself. "Will it be good for my faith?"
B. Could it become addictive for you? First Corinthians 6:12 says, "All things are lawful for me, but I won't be mastered by anything." Think about this. Is it possible that there are things in the world that the Bible doesn't specifically forbid that could trap you? Are there things in this world that the Bible doesn't say "You can't do that" and you go, "Oh, freedom in Christ," and then all of a sudden you are trapped? The answer is yes. Let me give you a really common example and invest a second of time here: alcohol. What does the Bible say about alcohol?
Some of you really want me to say right now that you can't drink, and some of you really want me to give you permission to drink as much as you want. Some of you are listening for both ways. Here's what I want to tell you. Does the Bible specifically forbid alcohol? No. Does the Bible forbid drunkenness? Yes, very clearly. You go, "Well, where's the line?" I say, I don't know, but I know this: more people say "Free!" and then they end up trapped than people who say, "Ooh, that could lead to bondage; I'll just stay back." There are more people who don't play it safe enough.
There are many of you who, I'm telling you, you don't see any argument in the Bible that you can't drink, but you know if you're being really honest, for you…not for everyone, for you…you never have interacted well with it. It doesn't mean God is saying it's a sin carte blanche. It just means you've never interacted well with it, and this is a problem area for you. Not because the Bible says it has to be, but because of your weakness it just is. What I see commonly is young adults who cry, "Freedom in Christ!" on the way to bondage. So be thoughtful. Could it become addictive?
C. Will it confuse or tempt other people? If you're going to do something, if you're asking, "Should I do [blank]?" well, will people come up to you afterward and be like, "I thought you were trying to do the Christian thing now"? If you eat that, do that, drink that, choose that, hang with that person or with that group of people, go there… If you make that choice, are people going to be tempted to come up to you and be like, "Huh, I can't really put the dots together here"?
Will it tempt someone else? Back to that alcohol conversation. Another common mistake is someone who truly is free… The Scripture doesn't explicitly forbid having a drink, and a person doesn't particularly find it to be a temptation of any kind. For them it's like Dr. Pepper or beer. It's the same. They're not tempted, for whatever reason. Many of you wish that was you, and it's not you, but there are people who exist who are free in that way and can interact with alcohol appropriately.
Sometimes the person who says that says, "Oh, I'm free in Christ, and just because you don't drink, I'm still going to have a drink in front of you." That's not loving either. Does that make sense? So even if you are free to exercise some freedom… "I'm free to do that. I'm free to make that choice." Will it discourage someone else? Will it bother someone else?
I have friends who don't interact well with alcohol. Guess what: it's never around them, because they have a loving community around them who are thinking not just of their freedom but what would be loving for the other people in the environment. That's when you make a huge shift in your spirituality, when you go from, "What's my freedom?" to "Hey, what would bless everybody here?" That's what will change the game for you. So if you have a decision to make, you can think through that.
D. "Would it honor God the most out of all of my options?" Out of all of my options, whatever my options are, would it honor God the most? This is the one we easily think about, but we don't really pause to do it. It's easy for this to come to mind. "Yeah, I want to glorify God in everything I do," but we don't really stop to think…
If Jesus was standing here right beside you, would you turn to him and be like, "You know, Jesus, it's really all about you, and whether or not I stay at this job, it's really not even up to me. What would honor you the most out of all of my options? What would make you look great? What would make you famous?" That might clarify a few things. "Would it honor God the most out of all of my options?"
There was a time when I would have said that God didn't care about my future. There was a time when I would have said, "I don't think, honestly, that God really cares about me…for a lot of reasons. First, he's big, and he's busy, so maybe he has so many other important things to take care of, like good people, that he wouldn't care about a future like mine.
Or maybe it's just because I've done so many bad things. I've done so much. I've gone a little too far, whatever the limit was, to have God still interested in my life from this point forward. I clearly turned my back on that, and I've gone too far. I don't know where the line is, but I'm on the wrong side of it."
Then I would think, "You know what? Maybe when I was born God had a wonderful plan for my life, but that's clearly gone, and now I'm just trying to do damage control so I can maybe get second or third or fifth best." That's the mode I was in. I just thought, "There's no way God could really be interested in me. Maybe God loves me, because after all, he's God. He's supposed to love everyone. But I don't get the feeling that God would like me very much." That's how I felt.
If you've ever felt that way, as you look out at your future and you're going, "What's the will of God for my life? I'm not getting answers from the preacher. He's just giving me more questions to ask. God, are you going to help me with the future or not…?" If you feel alone when you look out like that, you might have been tempted to read the Bible like I did.
I used to read the Bible a little bit like this, and this might be where you find yourself. You're going, "Where's the talk about my future? I mean, where? I have, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' That's great. That's not my future. Noah and the ark. Good story. Not my future. Good boat. Not my future. Another cool story. Not about me. Not about my future.
Here are some psalms now. I have some poetry. I'm not a poetry guy particularly, but hey, I'm glad it's there. Also not about my future. Now I have some prophets. I've been reading a long time, and now I have some prophets. It seems like God is mad. I'm probably a part of that, but it's definitely not about my future. There's nothing in here about me."
Eventually, you come to a place where you realize, "Hey, this is a scene I've seen before. I've looked at it a bunch of times, but I haven't seen it." This happened to me. It's the scene where Jesus gives his blood, his life, on a cross. Not a cross like the shiny one that you have around your neck but a cross where it's made of wood and he's pinned to it like a poster.
There's blood coming from every part of his body so that you can't even recognize… It says in the Scripture you can't even recognize that it's a human being. Pain like you would not be able to even see or even look at. If you had been there, you would have passed out or vomited or at least had to look away because it was so gruesome.
I'd been told about the cross of Christ, and I knew it was on churches and all over tee shirts, and I knew it was a popular symbol, but there was a time when I finally saw it. I saw that Jesus was spilling his blood, expressing the love of God to me. You go, "What does the blood of Christ have to do with my future? What does the blood of Christ have to do with me? That was a sharp turn there, Garrett. How did you get from my future, my future, to the blood of Christ?"
Well, Jesus explained the cross this way. He said, "I came to give my life as a ransom for many." As a ransom to buy back many. You go, "Many what?" Many pasts, many divorces, abortions, angry seasons of your life. He came to buy back a past of bitterness. He came to ransom you from your lies and your secrets. All of the reasons you have in your head to believe that God is not for you from this point forward, Jesus came to pay for them. He came to buy back a past.
He came to buy back a present, your addiction, your secret, whatever you're harboring, whatever it is in this place that makes you come in here and be more interested in the opposite sex than in God, whatever it is about you that's broken, your self-obsession, your inability to manage food or alcohol well. He came to buy back your present, and of course, by the blood of Christ, he didn't just come back to buy the past and the present; he came to buy back everyone's future. Every step you take for the rest of your life, Jesus died on the cross so you could walk with him.
You go, "Well, the cross is a thing of the past. That was 2,000 years ago. What does that have to do with my future?" The cross is where your future was purchased back and handed to you for free. The Bible says God can take back the years the Enemy stole from you. It says God can take back the years the Enemy ate from you, the years you should have had and the way life should have gone. It doesn't have to be lost, because the blood of Christ came out of a perfect human being, the only perfect human being who has ever lived, who gave everything he had for us.
Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he laid down his life for his friends." He calls you a friend. He also says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundant." What does that mean? Heaven for sure, but what else does "abundant life" mean? It means today, for the rest of the rest, you can walk with Christ because of the blood of Christ. You can walk into the future that God wants for you.
Now, I want to be really careful. I'm not saying that if you believe in the blood of Christ and become a Christian, inside this magical chest of your future is all the stuff you want. I'm saying it's all the stuff God wants for you, and you don't have to lose it this time, because Jesus died to bring it back to life. That's our hope.
I don't know what you're going through. I don't know what disappointment you have. I don't know what frustrations you have. I don't know what insecurities you have, and I'll be honest. I don't know when God is going to unlock all the stuff you want to know and experience. I haven't seen everything from God I want in my life, I can tell you that. I don't know when you're going to see it either, but I know this: if you will receive life from Christ, you will receive everything God wants for you, which is better than what you could dream up on your best day.
I went out and ran toward the life I thought I could build for myself, and I came up empty. When I see the blood of Christ offering back to me what I tried to throw away and letting me volunteer into it… Not slapping my hand, just saying, "I paid it. The anger is gone. Everything you did wrong is paid for." You can pick it up right here with hope because of what Jesus did for you.
I don't know what God specifically wants to do through you. I hope it's amazing. I hope he gives you the wildest godly dreams in your heart. I hope he uses you. I hope he uses you to raise a family. I hope he uses you to share his hope and love in your office and actually see people respond. I don't know what he wants to go do with you. I just want you to be there and be available to find out. Making the cross your everything today is how you make sure you find out what he wants to do with you. It takes patience. It's not instant, and it's worth it. Let's pray together.
God, we want everything to do with you. We've tried it our way. We've moved out from your presence, and we've turned our back on you. Every single one of us has tried to free ourselves from you, only to end up tangled and realize it. God, there is more brokenness in this room than I could ever name, but because the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ is over this building tonight, there is more hope in this room than I could ever say.
We thank you for the hope we have, God. Thank you for returning a hope to us. Help us not let anxiety steal this moment away, God, by making us worry, "But what about…? What about…?" God, help us think just for a second… Grab our attention for five minutes and help us think, "What about the cross? What does it mean for me?" Make eye contact with us, God, so that we can see your love for us and rejoice that we have a hope and a future. In Jesus' name, amen.