Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. Today we’re on week number four of our series “The Mask” with a message entitled Living beyond Your Limitations. Several years ago I saw a man named Nick Vujicic speak at Creation. Nick has become one of my heroes, because even though he was born without arms or legs, he refuses to be defined by what he doesn’t have and instead shows us what it means to live a life beyond our limitations. If there’s anyone who has a justifiable reason to live their life totally dependent on others, Nick has a reason, but instead he chose to get married, has two children, and in spite of not having arms or legs he is able to operate a wheelchair, use a computer, swim, and many other things. Today he’s become a world renowned speaker and he’s written several books, one of which is aptly titled “Life Without Limits”. And you know, each one of us here have plenty of reasons to say that we have limitations that are holding us back, that there’s something that’s keeping us from being who we want to be or doing what we want to do. And we could point in several different directions, but today I want to talk about money and stuff, because that’s an area where most of us live behind a mask. You see, those limitations can be intimidating, casting a huge shadow over our lives, leaving us in bondage, and so today we’re going to talk about dropping the mask and living beyond our limitations.
Now the limitations of our lives are very real and so this isn’t about pretending that these obstacles don’t exist. For example, just pick up a newspaper or magazine, turn on the radio or TV, open your mailbox, even certain apps on your phone, and you can’t escape from being bombarded by all the businesses offering rebates, dealers inviting you in, stores lowering prices on selected items, and credit card companies lining up to help you buy more and more. Their objective is not to just make you want more stuff, but to cause you to be dissatisfied with the stuff you already have, and to entice you to buy a product based upon a false concept of need, the way it will make you feel, or even be perceived by others. And so today I want to assure you that even though sometimes it’s all but impossible to see anything but the limitations, the God we serve invites us to live a life beyond our limitations, and he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that’s at work within us.
As we begin today, our theme verse is found in Proverbs chapter 13, at verse 7. The Bible says, “One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (Proverbs 13:7). You see, we all have limitations, but we don’t have to be defined by them. We all have limitations and it’s good to know what they are, because you’ll never overcome an obstacle that you haven’t identified. In Nick Vujicic's life his limitations are obvious, but in your life they may not be so obvious, but you still need to know what they are.
Maybe for you, you demand too much of yourself, you’re never satisfied, and therefore you and/or your spouse work all the time. Scripture says, “One man pretends to be rich,” so he’s got a mask on pretending to be able to live a lifestyle that his income can’t sustain. It’s just a show; and behind the mask he’s in debt, he’s overwhelmed, and he’s struggling financially. They look good on the outside, because they’ve got all this stuff, but they’re wearing a mask and they’re not just fooling others, a lot of us wear this mask to fool ourselves. It’s been ingrained in our hearts by our culture that if we have enough stuff we’ll be happy, we’ll be significant and we’ll be secure. However the Bible says, “One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing.”
And this is where so many of us find ourselves these days, because we live in a generation that plays now and pays later. But you know, it never used to be that way, it used to be that people saved. Now as a culture we’ve gotten tired of waiting and we’ve learned to be in debt. Statistics tell us that most people under 30 have no savings, they don’t have a cash reserve, and so what they have is a mask because they’re living this lifestyle, pretending to be wealthy, but they have nothing. And so the reality is that who we are should never be measured in terms of what we have or don’t have. Yet in so many ways we’ve all bought into the lie that promises if we have all this stuff we’ll be happy.
And so number one, what is the promise of the lie? Well, the apostle Paul answers this in Romans chapter 1, verse 25, speaking of mankind’s reckless step to idolatry saying, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised” (Romans 1:25). In other words, he said, they took what was true and not believing it, not receiving it, they exchanged it for a lie. This is the climax of man’s battle with truth when he exchanges the truth of God for a lie and abandons the truth. It’s the same lie that Satan used in the Garden to lead Eve into sin saying in Genesis 3:5, “You will be like God.” If we exchange the truth of God for a lie, that man is his own God, and that he can worship and serve himself instead of the Creator, the end result of this self-deification is self-indulgence. You see, we put on our masks and we start to worship and serve money, what we can buy, those created things, rather than the Creator God. And the reason why we do this, is because money and things promise us happiness, significance, and security; three things that only God can provide and so when we believe the promise of the lie we end up worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator God.
Maybe you remember Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24) and he said that because money is the number one competitor for our hearts. Then he said, "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). Do you see the connection? Anybody? Jesus said don’t worry, God has all these things under control, but when we believe the lie that money promises, we end up worshiping and serving created things. So, even though we know that money and things can’t buy happiness… we know that right? Can I see a show of hands? Who agrees that money and things can’t buy happiness? We know that right? Money and things help, but they’re not the source of our happiness. And yet still deep in our hearts we believe that if we have enough money and things that we’ll be happy, that we’ll be significant, and that we’ll be secure, because money lies to us.
You see, money promises us what only God can provide. Money can’t provide happiness, but Jesus can. It can’t provide significance, but Jesus can. It can’t provide security, but Jesus can. And so what we have is a spiritual problem, because we’ve bought into the lie that all the stuff we bought is going to make us happy. And then on the other side of the mask is a financial problem, the fear of how we’re going to pay this off, the denial of how we even got there in the first place, and then the bondage as Proverbs 22:7 tells us, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” So we’re in bondage, we’re wearing this mask, believing the lie, exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and that’s why we need to drop the mask and tell the truth. It’s a spiritual problem long before it becomes a financial problem. And so what I want to do is encourage you to drop the mask and number two we’re going to expose the truth.
Now several years ago, there was a story of this guy out in California who was on his way to work one day in his brand-new SUV when the ground began to tremble, the road split apart in front of him, and he plunged into this fracture. As he crawled from the wreckage he was in such shock that he didn’t notice that his left arm had been cut off above the elbow. He stood there trembling at the side of the road, staring down into this crevice, crying out, “Oh no, my brand-new Hummer!” A witness who came upon the scene said, “How can you be crying about your truck? Don’t you even realize that your arm has been cut off?” The man looked down in horror at his missing arm and said, “Oh no! My Rolex!”
Well, today as we’re dropping the mask, we’re exposing the truth, because there’s no doubt that we live in a materialistic society and that money is the driving force behind much of what happens in our lives. And all of us who want to live a life based on spiritual values often find ourselves struggling with the issue of money. You know, we wrestle with questions like, “How much is enough? What should I do with my money? Can you be wealthy and still be spiritual? Should I give all my money to the poor? What would Jesus do with my money?” And the Bible’s not silent on that issue either. As a matter of fact, it’s far from that, because Jesus spoke on that topic often. Out of 38 parables recorded in the Gospels, 16 of them deal with how to handle money and possessions. The Bible itself contains 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2000 verses on money and possessions.
And so, as we’ve exposed the truth, we’ve discovered that it’s not a financial problem, but it’s a spiritual problem. Many of us have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and we’re worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator. And even now some of you are resisting, you’re struggling with this, you’re trying to fight back, but don’t fight back, receive it, recognize it’s a spiritual problem and drop the mask. You see, when you admit to the truth, when you know the truth, the Bible tells us in John chapter 8, verse 32, “The truth will set you free.”
You see, here’s the deal. Many times the reason why we trust in money and stuff is because we don’t know what we have in Christ, we don’t know who we are in Christ, and so therefore we trust in money and not in Christ. And so our actions reveal what we truly believe. Now there are some exceptions to this, but most people are in debt. You know, they’re buying things that they don’t need, with money that they don’t have, trying to impress people they don’t even know, because the mask is up believing that more will make them happy, significant, and secure. Our actions reveal what we truly believe; that more will make us happy, more will make us significant, and more will make us secure, because we’re trusting our money and not in Christ. We’ve exchanged the truth of God for a lie and as painful as it is, we need to admit it and drop the mask. The bottom line is that we don’t know what we have in Christ, we don’t know who we are in Christ, and we’re not trusting in Christ for today, tomorrow, or for eternity.
And so, what I’m not going to do, even though it would be helpful, even though some of you need to do this, but what I’m not going to do is launch into some kind of Dave Ramsey like teaching. You know, we’ve been talking about offering a financial peace class and Dave would say, “You’ve got to get out of debt, you’ve got to get an emergency fund, you’ve got to start saving and giving like crazy.” And honestly there’s a place for that, but what I’ve experienced is that behavior follows belief, and so what I want to do is speak to the heart and then hopefully as the heart changes then our behavior will follow those beliefs. And here’s what I mean, when we know what we have in Christ, when we know who we are in Christ, and when we place our security in Christ and not in the things of this world our behavior changes. And so we need to have a change in beliefs, to stop exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and figure out what we truly have in Christ.
Therefore, for the remainder of our time, what I want to do is make one point. I want to drive one belief deep into your heart and into your soul so that you would be forever different. And that is simply number three, that there’s a better way to live.
That’s what I mean by living beyond your limitations. Our happiness, significance, and security are not found in the things of this world, but they’re found in Christ alone. The apostle Paul said it this way in Philippians chapter 3, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8). Now when Paul says everything, what he means is everything; and everything is a word that stands the test of time. Everything, all things Paul says, “I consider as rubbish that I may gain Christ.” And I don’t know why, maybe it’s because we think we’re to holy or something, but translators have whitewashed the word rubbish in many English translations. You see, the original Greek word means manure and so what Paul was saying is that everything that was to his profit he has discarded as manure that he may gain Christ.
Today you and I are going to drop the mask and expose the truth that money and things are as manure and they’ll never fulfill us. Now some of you are going to have to say that over and over again, because your actions say that you don’t believe it, but when your belief changes, your behavior will change too. When you drop the mask that says, “Look at all my stuff, look how important I am” and you stop lying to yourself that more is going to make you happy, suddenly you’ll find a door wide open before you and you’ll be able to step across the threshold into a better way to live, because your fulfillment is in Christ and in Christ alone. That’s what the apostle Paul was saying, that the driving force behind his life, a better way to live, was to know Jesus personally and intimately. That true happiness, significance, and security was found in Jesus and everything else was secondary to knowing Jesus and walking with him. In fact Jesus said it this way in Luke’s Gospel, at chapter 12, “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). You see, the world’s been telling you a lie. Your identity isn’t found in what you wear, where you live, or what you drive. Your identity is found in Jesus Christ, your happiness is in him, your significance is in him, and your security is in him. When you drop the mask you’ll be able to see it, to live it, to believe it, and your behaviors will change, because there’s a better way to live.
Look at what the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 15, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16). In other words, better to drive a paid for ‘99 Honda, when you love God, than an expensive new one that's got you in bondage with turmoil. It's better!
Again in Proverbs 15:17, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17). We could say, better to enjoy a dinner of vegetable soup with your family, than prime rib alone because you got divorced over money. It's better to have less where there’s love, than to have more with hatred. It’s just better!
Here’s another one from Proverbs chapter 12, “Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food” (Proverbs 12:9).
So can we just drop the mask today and quit pretending? Can we choose this day not to follow the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Don’t believe the promise of the lie, but expose the truth, because there’s a better way to live. You see, the world has exchanged the truth of God for a lie worshiping and serving created things because they don’t know what they have in Christ. But you and I, we need to fight for it, because we know it, it’s just that our actions say that we don’t believe the truth of who Christ is or what he’s accomplished in us and for us.
And so as we close let me just ask you this. Why is it that week after week we continue to wear the mask, seeking more and more, trying to fill this spiritual void in our lives with things of this world, when there’s a better way to live? You know, King Solomon in the Old Testament lived a rich and full life accumulating everything imaginable and yet he woke up one day and said in Ecclesiastes chapter 1, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). There’s a better way to live and that’s simply to lower your expectations of what you get out of this world and raise your expectations of what you get out of Christ. Let your happiness, your significance, and your security be found in Christ alone. When you do that you will find yourself Living Beyond Your Limitations. You’ll be satisfied, you’ll be able to give generously, even aggressively, and you’ll make a difference in the world. Together let us worship and serve the Creator, the only one who can satisfy, Christ who is to be forever praised!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 31, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.