Good Vibes Only
David Marvin | 08.27.19
We’ve all probably heard the popular mantra “good vibes only.” The idea of wanting to live a life that is primarily positive is not necessarily a bad thing, but tragically variations of this idea have entered into Christian teaching that are not biblical. In this message, we talk about three partial truths as it relates to “good vibes only” and what God’s Word has to say about them.
Good Vibes Only
We’ve all probably heard the popular mantra “good vibes only.” The idea of wanting to live a life that is primarily positive is not necessarily a bad thing, but tragically variations of this idea have entered into Christian teaching that are not biblical. In this message, we talk about three partial truths as it relates to “good vibes only” and what God’s Word has to say about them.
All right, let's go! New series! Come on! Welcome friends in the room, in Nashville, Phoenix, Austin, Tulsa, Houston, El Paso, friends up north, wherever you tune in. We are kicking off a brand-new series: Instagram Theology. Who is on Instagram in this room? Who's not on Instagram in this room? Oh, man. More than I would have thought. You guys need to get with the program here, people. It's like the new Facebook, only your Aunt Carol is not on there.
For the next handful of weeks, we're going to look at Instagram theology. What is Instagram theology? We are just going to explore some of the more popular cultural sayings and mantras and put them up to the lens of Scriptural truth. Let me start it like this.
Not long ago I was coming back from a vacation my wife and I got to go on. We were flying back from being out of town. We got on the plane and we sat behind this couple who also looked like they were coming back from being on vacation. They were in their 20s, probably 25, 26, somewhere around there. It looked like boyfriend/girlfriend. They sat down right in front of us. We're waiting on the tarmac for the flight to take off.
The girl pulls out her phone, and she begins to look through the pictures of her vacation. I'm not trying to be like creeper stalker; she is just right in front of me. I'm like, "Okay, stingray and her." She is just going through everything they did. Then as she's going through pictures of her and her boo on the beach, she pulls up an app. I had never seen this before.
She pulls up this app and she begins to take one of the photos of her vacation, and she begins to alter the photo. It's something called Facetune, apparently, which is a thing. Men, it's a thing. She pulls this up, and she is like adjusting her waist somehow. She is able to almost airbrush her face to make it look smoother. She is whitening her teeth.
I'm sitting there watching this and thinking, "This lady is a total fraud! This is a photo fraud! What is she doing?" She is enhancing the way that she looks. It worked. She looked better in the picture than she was looking in this thing. It's true. I'm like, "Dude, this lady sits on a throne of lies. This is unbelievable!"
I did what any person would do. I followed her on Instagram, and then I commented on her picture, "You sit on a throne of lies!" I didn't do that at all! I didn't do that, but I was sitting there going, "Oh my goodness! What are you doing? This is not at all reality." There are some things that kind of look the same, but there are some things that, "This is not who you are, lady."
You are projecting and throwing out this image of yourself and posting it out there on Instagram, which is what she did next, that is not entirely reality. This is definitely not the whole truth. The hair color is the same. The people in the picture are the same. The moment didn't change, or whatever they were doing on the beach there, but the whole truth was not being seen.
It was a partial truth at best. The reason I start there is because in that same way that she was putting out there a partial version of herself or really just a partial truth, there were some things changed, doctored, and edited, this series is us examining how oftentimes in culture and in Instagram, people will throw out partial truths that have a little bit of truth to them.
I'm not talking about a picture. I just mean sayings and hashtags and lingo that people will throw out there that has some truth to it; it's just not the whole truth. We want to, for the next handful of weeks, look at some of the more popular versions of those or popular expressions that people have like, "Love is love," "Speak your truth," "Here for it," Tonight, "Good vibes only," "Love yourself," "Listen to your heart," and begin to look at, "What is the actual truth?"
There's a little bit of truth in that, but there's also just a little bit of where it's twisted and that's not the whole truth that you are posting about and throwing out there to the rest of culture and begin to go, "What would God's Word actually say about this idea?" So tonight, we're going to take on the very first one as it relates to, "Good vibes only," which kind of captures a lot of what Instagram is in general.
People will post and go to Instagram in order to get good vibes. Nobody is on there like, "I'm just looking for someone to make me depressed." Ironically, despite the fact that's kind of what ends up happening when you look at everybody's highlight reel. You go on there and it's like good vibes and positive things and people are posting about their workout and this smoothie and this inspirational quote that I found earlier today.
The idea of "Good vibes only," if you've never heard that expression, basically is something that people will say and they're like, "Hey, dude, I just don't need that right now." Sometimes you'll say it in response to a roommate who comes home and wants to tell you about how their boss was so dysfunctional, and you're like, "Hey, man, don't need it. Good vibes only right now. I don't need that negativity in here. I'm trying to work on something positive. Positive in, positive out."
People are just trying to maintain a positive atmosphere around them. There's something about that that I can almost get on board with. The Bible says in Philippians, chapter 4, that whatever is true, noble, pure, right, good, think about those things. There's kind of an element of truth in it. The reality is all of us even if we want to have good vibes; we know that's not an experience that can always be a part of our lives.
When it gets tricky is that there is a Christian version of "good vibes only." There are some cultural Christians… Like, culture has its own, "Good vibes only," and Christianity and in the church today and in America, there have been some expressions of our own style of kind of, "Good vibes only." Hey, good positive things only. They often are attached to, "Man, if you just believe enough good things, God has good things in store for you. God has good coming your way.
I'm believing for good this year in you, your job, relationships, family, and your money status. All those things are good things coming to you. If you just believe enough and have enough faith and you live the right type of life, those things are headed your way. You just need to hold on." There are some expressions in particular where the church is believing some partial truths that contain a little bit of truth but also contain a little bit of a lie.
If you and I are not careful to know what those lies are, you are going to set yourself up. In other words, if you believe the three myths/truths or the three partial truths that we're going to talk about tonight that are widely pervasive, you are going to set yourself up to experience depression, despair, a Christianity that doesn't work because it's not Christianity, and experience a relationship with God that is defined as anything but a healthy, functioning relationship as the Bible would describe.
Tragically, at least one of the myths/truths or partial truths that we're going to look at is responsible for sending people to hell because it doesn't align with what God says the actual gospel is and what is actually true. We're going to look at the three partial truths that are the Christian variations of this, "Good vibes only, good life only, good things only coming to you," and we'll go through this.
These are going to be three partials truths aligned with three of what I would call the Instagram Bio Bible verses. Do you know what I mean by that? These are the Bible verses that people will put them on coffee mugs, people will put them on their Instagram Bio, three of the most popular verses out there that are often some of the most misapplied or wrongly applied verses out there.
The first partial truth is what I would just call the prosperity gospel. What do I mean by that? The prosperity gospel basically says this. That God at the end of the day… By the way, this is infiltrating in some significant ways in the church in America.
"If you want to follow God, here's what you need to know. God is for you. He is good. He loves you. You are going to have a healthy, wealthy, happy life. That is what God's will for you is. That is what God wants for you. That is what is coming. If you don't have those things, it's because you don't have enough faith or because you are not inside the will of God so you need to check yourself, because that is what God wants for you."
It's a partial truth. The reason why is it's like, "Hey, man, there's kind of something true in that, but there's also something kind of not true in that." What do I mean by that? There is kind of a truth in that. It's not like God is out there not wanting your life to prosper. It's not like he is sitting in heaven like, "I can't believe how well these people are doing. Unbelievable!" There is some truth.
It's not like he is radically opposed to that, but it is not the entire truth because it sells itself short in saying, "At the end of the day, do you know what God wants for you? He wants you to be wealthy; he wants you to be healthy. If you follow God, this is what is in store for you." It just doesn't align with the Bible.
The Instagram verse of this, the Instagram Bio verse, if you will, is actually a verse in case you're like, "Is he making this up?" It is Jeremiah 29:11. It's a very famous verse. You have probably heard it before. It says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
People will take this verse. You broke up with your girlfriend and it's like, "Hey, it's okay! Look, God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that he has a plan for you and he has a plan to prosper you. I know you just lost your job, but he has a hope, he has a future. He has good things coming for you. You need to hold on, because that's what God has for you. That's in my Bible."
People will say that and it's like, "Oh, okay. That's good." But it falls short of actually rightly applying that verse, that God's goal in even saying that at that time was not that you would be wealthy and healthy and happy ultimately. In other words, when that verse was written, that's not what it meant to them, let alone what it means to us today.
The context for that verse, we're going to read it here in a second. If you read around what that verse and when it was written, it was written by the prophet Jeremiah. Here's basically the point. There were people who were in exile. What does it mean to be in exile? Basically, the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem got conquered.
So this conquering empire called the Babylonians came in, conquered Jerusalem, and they were like, "Here's what we're doing. We're taking exiles, prisoners, with us. We want the top 10 percent." So they went around, and kind of like just in college, "Everybody in the top 10 percent: the prettiest people, the smartest people. You're all coming with us back to Babylon." People lost their family members; they lost people who were close to them, their dad. People were just taken away and sent into exile in Babylon.
The nation of Israel was like, "Dude, they just took…" It would be like if Canada came and conquered America, which would be hard, but they came in and they were like, "We're taking the top 10 percent back to Montreal. You're all coming with us." You're sitting there as an American and you're like, "Dude, this is so sad. I have to go to Montreal if I want to see my family. Are they ever going to get to come back?"
People began to go, "I'm sure God is going to bring them back." We're told false prophets started showing up being like, "You are the nation of Israel! God is going to give you a destiny and a future, and he is bringing them back!" and giving these false promises. Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles and he says, "Hey, don't buy it. Get comfortable. You're staying in Babylon." Here's what he says. Inside of that is where he writes that verse that I just read, Jeremiah 29:11. Here's what it says. Jeremiah 29, verse 8:
"'Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,' says the LORD. This is what the LORD says: 'You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"
The context of that verse is Jeremiah saying, "Hey, people are saying you're coming home. You're not coming home. Get comfortable. Seek the welfare of the city that you're in, but put down roots. You are not coming home. In fact, some of you guys are not even going to live for 70 years. Your kids or your grandkids are going to be the ones who are brought back."
Yet we pluck that verse and we're like, "Here's what this verse means. It means that God has a future for you to be healthy and wealthy and happy. That is the will of God for your life." It's twisted. It makes the epitome of what prosperity and the prospering that God wants so worldly. It really aligns with what the world would say is blessing in terms of God.
It is a partial truth that robs what God actually says is actual blessing, which is having a relationship with him, having health in your relationship with him, and having health in your relationship with other people. This is all over Christianity in our country today. Some of the most popular preachers in America will put forward this stuff. It is tragic because it is selling a lie that does not come from the Bible.
One of the more popular people, and I don't exhaustively study a ton of these guys, but there are sound bites that come out where it's like, "Man, that is at best misleading." There is a guy named Joel Osteen. I don't know Joel, and I hope his heart is good and I hope he loves Jesus and has an amazing relationship with him and all kinds of positive things, but he wrote this in a letter that was published by the Washington Post.
"God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us." That is at best misleading or is at worse intentionally misleading and he is lying to people. There are people all over our country who are saying, "This is what God wants. He wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. So give us your money and God will give you 10 times as much back."
It is a lie. It belittles the message of Jesus. It belittles the message of the Bible. It belittles the God who is there. There are also people who say, "Do you know what God wants for you? He wants you to be healthy. If you're not healthy, it's because of something you're not doing enough or maybe people haven't prayed for you or the right person hasn't come along to extend the gift of healing." God can heal people. He does all the time, but the will of God is not always healing for you.
I was hanging with a friend a couple of weeks ago and he was talking about a woman in his church who has been in a wheelchair for 20 years. She was a model. At the age of 25, she had a stroke. She has been in a wheelchair ever since. She said, "Almost every single day, people will come up to me in Christian circles, and they say the same thing over and over and over again."
Imagine if this was you sitting in a wheelchair. "Hey, I need you to know I got a word from the Lord. This year is going to be your year of liberation; the year of jubilee is here. You're going to be set free. This is the year you're going to walk. Let me just pray over you right now that would happen."
She kindly said, "I do almost the same thing every time. I say, 'Hey, that's great. Let me pray over you, though. Because God has made this wheelchair into a throne by which I get to proclaim despite the fact that I cannot walk that God who is there is good, he is for me, he could heal me at any time, but I don't worship him because he heals me. I worship him because he is God.'"
There are all types of people who are putting forward that what it looks like if you really follow God or if you really had enough faith you would be healed. That is a lie. It is not how the Bible says God operates. Sometimes the most God-exalting thing is not that you get up and walk. It's that you can't and you still say he is King, he is good, and he is alive. That's what the Bible teaches.
Anybody who tells you something that is inconsistent with that is lying to you. Ultimately, the prosperity gospel, if you will that, "Hey, man, just follow God and everything will be great for you," makes this weird relationship where you don't actually worship God. You worship what he can give you. It's like this. When I was in college, I dated a girl… We went on a few dates. It was one of those times where you're like, "I don't know that I really see this going anywhere."
Then I found out who her family was. Her family had a town named after them. They owned the town. It was like, "Dude, wow!" They were well-off at a level like I had never experienced before. So I'm like, "Oh man! Well if I continue in this, I guess I'll get to go on a private jet; I'm hanging on a private jet, going on family vacations. That could be cool." Thankfully, I didn't really move forward with it, but think about all the reactions that every girl in this audience just had.
"Oh my gosh! That is so unbelievable! You are a gold digger!" You would be right! If I was just in the relationship not because I actually liked her but because I was like, "She's okay, but really nice house." You would say, "That is so messed up!" That is what the prosperity gospel is. It's like, "Hey, God is kind of cool but really what he can give me is what I am after." You don't worship God; you worship his stuff. It is a false teaching that many have fallen for, tragically.
The second partial truth that is spreading honestly probably even quicker in our day and age is just what I would call the positivity gospel. What do I mean by that? It's almost this like type of Christianity that is very focused on self-help and, "You can do it," and, "No weapon formed against you can stand," and this motivational kind of pep rally. "Let's all come together," and, "You're going to defeat it this year," and, "You're going to conquer it this year."
"The promotion is going to be yours. I'm just going to believe it enough." "If you believe it enough then it will be what happens in your life." Again, it's so dangerous because it's just like a partial truth. There's something true about that. There's something true about, "Man, God, the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world," that, "If you walk in dependence on him, there's no limit to what God can do."
There's something true, but where it gets distorted is it begins to make promises that God never made. It begins to make promises that are not what God says ultimately this is. "I'm promising flourishing at your job," or "You're going to get married this year," are promises that are not things that God says, "Man, I've promised this to you."
Let me give you an example. Oftentimes, people do this. The dangerous thing about all three of these partial truths is that people take Bible verses and they try to support it with them. "See? This is what God said. This is how you can know that this is going to happen for you this year." People will take Bible stories and do the same thing. What do I mean? It'll be like this.
Like, "Hey, you know what? Just like David slayed the giant of Goliath and he put him to death, this year God has told me he has a word for you. You are going to put to death the giant of singleness. He will not arm against you. No weapon formed against you shall stand. You will prosper. Any door God closes will be a window he follows up with, because that's how my God works. Your setback will be a set up for what God is going to do to bring success. Turn to your neighbor and say, 'Success.'"
Dude, I'm out of breath. Wow, that's actually a lot harder than I thought. I need to start jogging. It is a lie. It's ridiculous. It's motivational. It's inspiring. I'm like, "Yeah, it's going to be set up, set back. I can't wait." Then I leave and I'm like, "I don't know what that actually means. I don't know what to do with that. I think he just promised that I'm going to get married and get out of debt in the next month. Wow!"
Then it doesn't happen. Then oftentimes it's like, "Well, that's because you didn't have enough faith." It is making promises that God never made in his name. It is tragic. I am all about positivity. My number one on StrengthsFinder? Positivity. I'm a 7 on the Enneagram. I don't like thinking about negative things. I like thinking about positive things. Let's go there.
When you begin to live a life that buys into this lie that God has promised certain things or that begins to focus on yourself and, "I'm more than a conqueror in Christ, and I'm going to take down this thing. I'm getting a promotion," you are buying into things and holding them as promises that God never said he promised to you. He promised in this world you're going to have trouble, not that you're going to get a promotion.
What happens whenever you begin to go, "Man, I'm going to believe God promising for me to get a promotion this year. I'm believing for that. That's what he told me," and then it doesn't happen? It's like, "I guess God is a liar. I don't know if this whole thing works. Maybe there's something wrong with me." My heart breaks for the number of Christians who have walked away from the faith because of that reason.
God is there going, "I never promised that! I promised that I'm enough no matter what you face, what you walk through." One of the more popular verses that people in this same kind of vein of positivity and self-empowerment and, "You got it!" will pull out is Philippians, chapter 4, verse 13. "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
This is in every Christian school's gym on the wall. It was under Tim Tebow's eyes. It really captures the football faith, like, "We're going to beat them for Jesus! Let's do this!" It doesn't reflect what Paul was actually saying in the verse. Ironically, he was saying the opposite of, "Hey, we're going to win because God will give us strength." He was saying, "No matter what happens, if I win or if I lose, if I'm rich or if I'm poor, no matter what I face I can handle it all because of Jesus. He is enough."
The verses say this in the context around it. "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." So if we win or we lose, Jesus is enough. If I'm single, if I'm married, Jesus is enough. If I don't get the job, if I lose my job, if I get a promotion, Jesus is enough.
Paul, as he grew in his relationship because he said, "I learned the secret," as in this wasn't an overnight thing. "As I've grown in Jesus, I've learned no matter what is happening on the outside, I can be okay on this inside. It's not because I'm promised victory in every way. It's because Jesus is enough. He is worthy, he is worth it, and he is enough.
No matter what I face, even if I'm hungry, I can go through it because I have this connection with Christ that is so real and tangible it surpasses anything I face in this life." It's pretty astonishing. He says, "That is what is a part of any person as they grow in their faith and their relationship with Jesus. That is what begins to happen inside of their life." Ironically, Paul wrote this from a prison jail cell. "I can do anything, I can handle anything, even being in jail for my faith." We've taken it and we've made it a pump-up verse attached to promises that God never made.
Two tragedies I think happen on this. I've already kind of alluded to the first is that we miss out on showcasing to the world that even when things go really badly, Jesus is Lord. It's powerful, like I said, as that woman getting up and walking, or as powerful as you having everything that you want in life and God bringing the healing and making it happen.
It's almost more powerful for someone to go through and say, "He hasn't taken the cancer away. I don't know how much longer I have. I don't know how many more chances I have, but Jesus is enough and I believe him." When that happens, it almost takes your breath away. I know it does for me.
Whenever somebody has the cancer go away, I'm like, "Oh yeah, cool. Chemo worked," but when they stand there and they look me in the eye and they're like, "I don't know if it's going to happen, man, but I've never felt more close to Jesus. I've never felt more alive. He is enough," it's breathtaking. In making promises or in saying like, "Man, ultimately God just wants you. You're more than a victor," and judging success by whether or not things go the way that we want them to, it removes our ability to showcase him even in hardship and pain.
The second thing is it teaches people to bank on promises that God never made. So they can leave and… Here's the most appealing thing like, dude, if we wanted to blow up The Porch and begin to fill up every stadium out there, we would just begin to go, "Self-help, positivity, everything is going to be great, good vibes only, you have what it takes, this is what God has for you," and just go over the top because it really is something all of us are going, "Man, that's so encouraging, and I want to hear that."
But the tragedy would be we would be filling our hearts with promises that God didn't make. Filling it so whenever life and tragedy happens and things don't go the way you want them to, you're holding on to something that was bankrupt empty. You're like, "Man, I was banking on something that never worked or never could've been there when I faced tragedy."
Let me give you an illustration to see what I mean. We moved a couple of years ago from our old house to our house we live in now. While we were doing that, we did what you do. You pack up your house and you begin to pack everything up. I was packing up underneath the kitchen sink at our old house and I came across our fire extinguisher.
I knew that our fire extinguisher was in there. That had been in there before we moved into the home. I knew that if there was a fire, we have that and we can grab that and we'll be all ready. As I was packing things out and moving it, pulled out the fire extinguisher and I realized, "Oh no." It was empty, it was rusted out, and it was expired. Had a fire come, the thing that I was banking on to bail me out and would be the thing that if a bad scenario happens (house on fire) I'm going to go grab this thing.
I would've found it empty, not helpful, and unable to help me face the fire. That's what people who hold onto these empty, Bible-less promises that everything you want if you're positive and have enough faith, it will be yours. That is what happens when they face tragedy and they face heartbreak, because they're holding onto an empty fire extinguisher. I can't help them because it's not coming from the Word of God.
Finally, the final partial truth as it relates to this "Good vibes only" Christian edition is what I would call thepartial truth of promised upgrades. This looks like this. "Hey, when things don't work out, you didn't get that job, it's because there's a better job coming. When your relationship broke off and you guys didn't make it, it's because she wasn't the one. God has someone better out there for you."
It's this kind of promised upgrades. When things don't go how we want them to, it's because God has a better something out there for you. Again, it has a partial truth in it. It's probably the most pervasive partial truth believed and really expressed inside of this room. The partial truth is that God does have something better in terms of his plan, but he doesn't promise that he has a better job for you.
When things fall apart or when your relationship breaks up, it's not true to say, "Do you know why? Because God has a better someone out there. She's out there, and she was not the one, and good riddance to her because we have another one we're going to look for now." That's not helpful and it's not true.
If I were to say that to you, I would just be like kind of saying stuff because I'm like, "I don't want you to feel bad so here's an empty promise." The truth would be honestly like, "Hey man, you guys broke up? God may not have anyone else out there for you. You may be alone and single for the rest of your life." That's the truth.
I'm not saying you should lead with that. I'm just saying that's the truth, but God has something better, has a better plan. He has a plan, he loves you, and he is for you. You can trust him. I can't in good faith or biblically say when you lose your job, "Do you know why you lost that job? Because God has a better job for you."
You may not have a better job coming your way. You may work part time at McDonald's. That's great. It may be a way worse job than your last job. Maybe that's what God has for you. Again, I'm not saying you should lead with that, but that is the truth. He hasn't given these promised upgrades all the time, but he has promised, and I'm going to look at the verse, where people you may be going like, "Wait a second, I thought he promised it's always going to work for good."
We're going to look at that verse, but he hasn't promised he is going to work for good according to your definition of good or he is always going to bring about upgrades in terms of your life. The verse that most people will pull this from, and well-meaning, people aren't doing it maliciously. They've heard people say things like that, but it's not biblical.
They pull it from Romans, chapter 8, verse 28. The final Instagram Bio Bible verse, if you will, which says this: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." We hold onto that. We take out, "He works for the good of those who love him."
God is always working for good so if I end up with my parents split apart, it's because God has a better plan. He is going to bring them back together. If my roommate moves out or we lose the lease, it's because God has a better apartment set up for us. No. Sometimes. Maybe, but that's not a promise you should bank on or a promise that God made.
He tells us in the context of those verses again the specific good that he is always at work bringing about in your life. Like there's a very specific good that he's saying like, "Man, this is the good that I'm at work bringing about in your life." Here's what he says in chapter 8, verse 28 and 29.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed…" Here is the specific good that God is at work bringing about in your life. "…to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."
The specific good that God is at work. What's the good? It's that in every situation that you face, God is going to bring about the good goal of using it to make you more like Jesus. That's the specific good in every situation. He doesn't promise that everything you face will be good. He promises that everything you face, even the bad things, even the worst and most painful things, "I will use to conform your character to be more like Jesus.
Everything you walk through, every breakup, every hardship, all of them I will use to make you more like Jesus, to work on your character, to produce fruit of the Spirit would be another way of saying it. To produce things those are like God. I'm going to use those to begin work on your anger problem, to work on your lust problem, to work on gossip, to begin anything that's out in your life that does not conform to the character of Jesus."
That's what ultimately he is bringing about. He wants to bring about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. He is going to use all of the circumstances, even the hardest things, to bring about making you more and more like Jesus. He is not promising everything that you face in this life…
John 15 is where Jesus looked at his disciples, ironically, and he said, "Here's what I need you to know. You're going to have a really hard life. It's going to be rough. In this world, I'm promising you, you're going to face trouble, but I have overcome the world. This world is a vapor and it is fleeting and I'm enough to get you through it. This is not your home, but I will be enough as you walk through that. I will use even the hardest things you face to make you more like me or to make you more conformed to my character in your life."
It's not just some of this. I don't know if you guys know how gold is refined. When you dig gold out of the ground and it's just kind of like rock and minerals and you take all that stuff and you're like, "This is gold." They would take it to a goldsmith, and the goldsmith would then take it to a furnace. Here's how he purifies the gold. He puts it in the furnace. He heats it all the way up.
Through that heat, all of a sudden, the impurities or the different minerals begin to rise to the top. So he puts it in the oven and heats it all the way up..really, really hot. The impurities rise to the top. He pulls it out. He scrapes off the impurities of the gold. He puts it back in, heats it all the way back up again, pulls it back out, and scrapes off the impurities of the gold. He does this over and over again. The fire helps draw out the impurities. He scrapes them away and puts it back in.
Do you know how he knows whenever the gold is pure and purified? When he can see his reflection in the gold. This is what the Bible says that God is doing even in the hardest circumstances of life. He is allowing those things to purge out impurities. That's what he wants to do. He wants to begin to bring out the impurities in your life that are not minerals.
They're things like anger, lust, jealousy, selfishness, greed. He wants to conform everything in your life. The more that you surrender and allow him, that's the goal he is taking you to: to be more like Jesus. That's what he is trying to do inside of your life. He is allowing everything, even the hardest of circumstances, to be like a fire that pushes out and exposes some of the impurities that are there.
Some of the ways… You might say, "I don't trust you, God," but this is so he would bring you closer to a place where you can more clearly see his reflection in your life. This is what God is doing. This is the specific good that he has promised. Not upgrades all the time, that your car got wrecked, "That's because God has a better car for you." That's not in the Bible, but your car got wrecked and God has promised, "I'm going to use that to make you more like Jesus."
I wish it was in the Bible, dude. That would be amazing. It's like, "Your car got wrecked, but let me tell you, we have a car for you and you and you! I have cattle on a thousand hills. We have cars…" We're not Oprah. God doesn't say he works like that. He has something so much better, so much more lasting than a car, which is your character.
Ultimately, so many of these positive vibes that we're about to be done have at the epicenter of them a focus on me and on you, on your desires, your life, your goals, on the things that you want. Then also on your ability to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you just believe enough and you go take it and you have everything you take and you're going to slay your own Goliath.
It puts you at the epicenter, the focus of your life: you. The Bible says it doesn't work that way. The more that you just say, "Man, I'm going to be able to face these hardships in life because of me," you've bought a lie. The Bible teaches that life almost works like this. These are two almost identical balloons. The difference between the two is that this one has helium in it and this one does not. It has air inside of it.
Do you know what happens whenever you hit this balloon down? It comes back up. Do you know what happens when you hit this one down? It's already down. It stays down. It's a very simple science experiment. The point is what is inside of it determines its ability to rise. The Bible doesn't say that you're never going to face hardship and you're not going to go through painful times and a breakup and lose your job and not have your car get wrecked and not be able to make rent and not have things work the way that you want them to work.
But it does promise that if you allow Christ inside of you to lead your life, if you're surrendered to him and you walk with him and you walk in dependence on him…not your own strength and not your ability to overcome things, but you walk in dependence on him…then no matter how much life throws at you and how many challenges and hardships you face, you will continue to rise. I'm not saying succeed and get the promotion every time. You won't get the promotion, and you're not going to be held down about it.
You're going to be like Paul, "Dude, I'm in prison, but I know the secret of being in prison or the palace. It's all good. I have Jesus." That's what it paints the picture of. The flip side is also the same. Where you're like, "Hey, if you just depend on yourself, your life is about you and building your kingdom and your health and your wealth and your prosperity, then you're going to live a life that is depressing, despairing, and you're going to find yourself whenever you're like, 'You know what? I have what it takes to defeat this depression. I have what it takes to defeat this here,' you're just going to end up staying on the ground and you won't rise."
This is why people tragically… So some of you guys, you're back at church for the first time in a while and you were raised in environments where they yelled and screamed things and it was inspirational. It didn't make a lot of sense, but it inspired you. You left the church because you were like, "This doesn't even work. It's so awesome when I'm in there and it's good vibes, but then I leave," and it doesn't leave you a good life. It leads me to be like, "Something's off. This doesn't really work for me. I thought it was supposed to all be kind of up and to the right. This is really hard. My mom died."
I thought, "God, you're never going to leave me or forsake me. This doesn't seem right." You walked away from the church. Some of you have family members like me. I have family members who walked away from the church because they saw these weird, distorted perceptions or expressions of Christianity that are not biblical.
They're the Christian "Good vibes only" variation. Our heart cry… I'll close here. I think the reason this is so popular is because there is something in all of us, inside of my heart that the reason why it's so intriguing and appealing to be like, "Dude, just tell me I have what it takes and it's going to be okay and it's not going to win against me and I have it and God will give me victory," is because we all just want know it's going to be okay.
We want someone to tell us, "Tell me it's going to be okay. Tell me it's not going to end like this. Tell me the pain is not going to be like I'm feeling right now. Tell me even though it's hurting right now; tell me it's going to be okay." We listen to people and they give us that message, but it's built on false hope. While at the same time, the Bible does say it's going to be okay. You're going to be okay if you're a follower of Jesus. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, you're going to be okay.
It may not be okay like you want it to be in this life, but it says it's like a vapor and then for all of eternity with Jesus, it's going to be okay. He's going to bring every disease, sickness, cancer to an end. Healing will happen in the next life, and sometimes in this one, but he has promised it's going to be okay.
It may not be on the timeline that you want, but I need you to listen to me very closely. In what will seem like an instant. That's what a vapor is. That's what the Bible says this life is. You're going to be in heaven. You're going to be in eternity with God. It's going to be okay. It may not all work out like you want it to now in this life, but it's going to be okay.
The God who is there has gone to such great lengths to make sure that you know that despite the fact that in this life you're going to experience bad vibes… I wish I could give everybody an encouragement. You're going to leave here and you just got good vibes. You're going to have bad vibes. You're going to have bad days. You're going to have bad things happen to you.
You're going to make bad decisions. You're going to be responsible for making bad vibes a part of someone else's life. You're going to do things that hurt yourself, and people are going to do things that hurt you. You can't promise protection from all the pain, but the God who is there has gone to the greatest extent to show you, "I will even give my life to promise a future that has a hope and a purpose and is free of all pain. I did so by dying in your place on the cross."
Dying not just for every bad vibe this world has ever experienced, but for every bad decision you have ever made, every look at pornography, ever time that you've ever committed sexual sin with someone who is not your spouse, every abortion represented in this room, every time you've worshipped something other than God including yourself, every time that you've given yourself over to substances just to numb yourself. All of it was paid for.
Jesus went to the cross in an ironic turn of events, in the worst moment in human history where this happened, where Jesus went. He went in a way that no one would have said in that moment, "Good vibes only." Ironically, the worst moment in history, even that moment God flipped on its head, and today we call it Good Friday.
It's the day God died. The day God died for you, the day God died for me, and the day that every bad vibe in our world went on an expiration shot clock. Because the truth and the new world is coming and Jesus is returning, and with him only come good things. You need to know, it is only those who have accepted the free gift of God who have eternal life.
It's not those who have healthy, wealthy life in this time. It's not those who are positive enough, who overcome their challenges enough; it is those who say, "I surrender to you, Jesus. You're my Savior. I put my faith in what you did on the cross for me. I'm not going to have a relationship with God because I did anything good.
I know I'm not good, so I'm trusting what you did for me, you paid on that cross for me, and you rose from the grave. You showed the payment cleared." That's what it means to be a Christian. The only people who will live in the life to come, the only people who should leave here with any hope that no matter how bad today was, the new world is coming, are those who are not good people. They're forgiven people who've trusted Jesus and have put their faith not in how good they've done or how bad they are.
There are so many of you it breaks my heart every week. You still think you're good enough to go to heaven or honestly, the opposite is generally truer. You still think you're too bad to. You still think that, "No, God, I've really got to clean stuff up. I'm trying to get things together. I'm working on. I need to make some changes. I'm going to get back."
That will never get you into a relationship with God. You can get all the good things in the world and you can go a week without smoking pot and you can go a week without looking at porn and you can go a week without texting her late at night. None of that will get you deserving to have a relationship with God.
Wherever you are right now, he is inviting you to know him, to have a relationship with him. He already paid for it. When he, on the cross, took all of your sin: past, present, and future. He knows every sin you haven't even committed yet. He paid for it. Think about that. Everything you're going to do in a year from now…paid. That's how scandalous the gospel and the grace of God are.
He is inviting all of us to have eternal life and a relationship that experiences an abundant life. Not monetarily, but an abundance by walking with him now by receiving the free gift. "God, I'm a sinner. I trust in what you did on the cross in dying for my sin and rising from the grave. I receive that free gift. I don't deserve it, but I receive it right now. I believe that, God. I believe you paid for me. You are who you say you are." Let me pray.
Father, thank you that you are a God who has gone to such great lengths to restore a world that is full of bad brokenness and bad vibes to perfect, good, loving, whole not just vibes, but reality. Thank you that already you are working backwards the curse that sin brought into the world when it broke everything.
You're beginning healing. It's not always healing like walking again or someone's body being restored in this life, but you are working backwards in our world, you are bringing your kingdom, and you are returning some day. I pray right now, God, for anyone in this room who has been burned by the prosperity gospel, they've been burned by expressions of Christianity that do not resemble what the Bible says.
I pray that you would move near to their heart now, you would work and begin to just heal wounds and baggage and things that happen by people standing on stages like me right now, claiming things that you don't ever say they should've claimed in your name. For abuse that's taken place, God, would you heal?
Father, thank you that you love us and you're for us. You have a plan. In all of eternity, we'll get to experience the goodness of our God. As we wait, we experience that still and trust you and walk with you and hold on to you in the midst of hardship, God. Help us to be those types of people. Amen.