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OPENING ILLUSTRATION: [Have a teeter totter on the stage with two buckets attached that items can be put into]
Relationships are tough to balance, right? They can go from everything being perfect to everything being out of whack with just one phone call from your mother-in-law, or one misplaced pair of underwear. You can go from being excited to see one another at the end of the day to wishing you had somewhere else to go at the end of the day pretty quickly.
[stand at the teeter totter and teeter it back and forth]
Here’s what I’ve learned in years of being married and from counseling couples whose marriages are struggling, is once the teeter totter starts to get too out of whack, bad things can start to happen.
It happens like this. -He works long hours every day and spends time, even at work balancing the checkbook and paying the bills, only to find out that she bought a new pair of shoes without checking the account and now they are about to overdraft…[put papers representing bills in the bucket]-He knows she’s not pulling her weight. -He heard the pastor say that husbands should wash the dishes to show their wives how much they love them, he’s been doing it every night and she doesn’t even seem to notice [dishes go in]-He’s tired when he gets off work, he just wants to take off his shoes and relax, but here we go again, he’s got to watch the kids and take care of them [put a toy in the bucket]
[the bucket for him is firmly on the ground now]
He’s mad because he’s doing everything and it doesn’t even feel like she’s pulling a 10th of the weight he’s pulling.
Let’s see what she has to say for herself-She gets up early every day to make his lunch and the lunch for the kids before going to work. She has to shower before any of them have even thought about waking up. No one ever even begins to say thank you. [put lunch box in bucket]-she is NEVER done with laundry. It’s constant. It’s like these people think it’s a contest to see how many shirts they can wear in a day. She doesn’t want to leave work, just thinking about all that has to be done and no one lifts a finger, if they do it’s only because she complains, and she’s tired of feeling like a broken record [put a think of laundry soap in the bucket]-He tries to be romantic with her and doesn’t understand why she’s always got a headache. -She takes off from work everyday early to go pick up the kids from school, drops them off and runs back up to work. She feels so much guilt over this, she’s never told anyone, but she feels like she’s not a good mom for dropping them off and she feels like she’s doing a disservice to her employer. She’s full of guilt, and no one knows an it seems like no one cares… [put in a backpack]
And it goes on and on for ever…It’s no wonder the divorce rate is so high
We’re all trying to balance our relationships by keeping score and everyone is losing.b
So, how do you go from keeping score to being on the same team?
Open up your bibles to Philippians ch 2. Paul is trying to help the Philippians know how to live a live worthy of the Gospel. How do they live in a way that’s different from the world around them? In the middle of this discussion Paul says these words…
Philippians 2:3-83 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Did you hear what Paul said? Listen again: Philippians 2:3-83 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
ILLUSTRATION:I think one of the strangest scenes from the life of Jesus is the night before His death. He is gathered with his best friends in the world at a dinner table. They are eating together and John says that
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up…”
You know what comes next right? Jesus forced them all to get on their knees and worship Him, feed him grapes and the such. Right? I mean, that must be what happened, He knew all things were under his power, His control.
I want to be clear with you, ANY other religion, this is what would happen. Why? Because they are made up, and made up religions make God’s in their own image.
This is what would expect, because, if we are honest, it’s what we would expect of ourselves.
But what happens is so UTTERLY preposterous that has to be true.
Jesus, takes off his outer clothing, wraps a towel around his waist and He gets down on His knees to wash the feet of His disciples…
What? This is disturbing. The God who is not bound by time or space gets down on His knees and serves?
And Paul, talking about how Christians are to interact with one another – draws back to the character of Jesus and tells us
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But in Humility, value others above yourselves… Looking to their interests…
Could I ask you some questions?
[bring these in one at a time]
What would our friendships look like if we lived out those words? What about our marriages? What about our churches?
I heard someone say recently that the problem is not that Christians don’t believe Jesus, it’s that they are living out their belief about Jesus. They don’t truly believe Him and so they don’t live it out.
Those are tough words, but I think there is truth in there.
Did you hear what Paul said as He described this pattern of selflessness?
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Paul is taking us back to Jesus as the pattern…
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing
ILLUSTRATION: When I interviewed with Harmony last year, I met with all these leaders and talked with them. The next day we went to look at houses with Judy, she started asking me if we had met Goose? I have to be honest with you, I thought maybe this was some weird Kentucky thing. Goose? Goose who? Goose Givens she said. I honestly had no idea who she was talking about. She started describing him and I realized Jack, Goose Givens had been one of the guys in our interview. I didn’t know he was a celebrity in these parts. I didn’t know it because Jack, from what I can tell, has never in my presence at least ever acted as anything but a very humble man. He could have come in with swagger and made a big deal about who he was, but that’s not what I got from him.
I hope you get it. Jesus had every reason to use His advantage. The bible even says people viewed all of this as foolishness. He had every reason to take advantage, but He didn’t
He made Himself NOTHING
And yet somehow, I’m too good to live my life in a way that I’m a living sacrifice of service to those around me…
Ugh, my own personal arrogance…How did Jesus make Himself nothing? by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus took this act of humility to the very end of Himself…
Look, do you see the inherent problem with keeping score by trying to balance?
Keeping score in a relationship is the opposite of the selflessness of Jesus. b We’re not supposed to keep track of what’s been taken, we’re supposed to give away what we’ve been given.
So, why can’t we do it?
CLOSING: I have a friend who got married pretty young. Their relationship has had problems for a long time. One of the things that has become so evident from the outside is that they are trying to get things from one another that the other person just isn’t equipped to give them.
Do you know why we keep score? It’s because we are worried that we will get taken advantage of. Ultimately, we are worried that we won’t matter.
Selflessness is the cure to this. But I need to say this. If you don’t figure out how to get what you are lacking from God rather than those around you, you will never be successful in relationships.
You can fake selflessness for a while, but at some point, you will be taken advantage of. At some point, you will be hurt. At some point, you will lack. And
If your value and identity isn’t wrapped up in what God thinks about you? You will crumble and fall back into keeping score.
When you care more about what God thinks than anyone else, you have the fuel in your life to build the relationships you’ve always longed for! Don’t give up!