A few years ago my dad was going through a building campaign at his church in Indiana. In their efforts to raise money for their new building, they launched a vision series entitled A Place at the Table. Their vision was to see more open seats for people to join Jesus at His table. In one of those messages my dad wrote,
When you were a toddler you sat in a high chair or at the kid’s table and you wanted a place at the adult table with the big people. And then you went to school and you needed to fit in and you wanted to belong and the school cafeteria made it clear whether you were accepted or not if you had a place at the table. And then adulthood came and you worked and contributed and tried to survive and make your opinions known and when it came to how things should be done you just wanted to be heard and have a place at the table in your life pursuits. And as you got a little older you started to realize the beauty and importance of family and you would give just about anything to have that place at the table together with your family as you go through life.
Any of those scenarios ring true for you? Or maybe worse, do all of them sound familiar? As we go through life, we all want to be accepted. We want relationship and community. We want to know that we have people that we can rely on and people who rely on us. Having a place at the table is important to us. The need and desire to be seated at the table will often dictate and control our emotions and our actions whether we admit or not.
Sadly, so many of us go through life feeling like we have no place at the table. We’ve been chewed up and spit out too many times and we have believed the lie that we are unworthy. We’re not good enough. And nobody wants anything to do with us. So we give up. We throw in the towel simply because of what we think others say and think about us.
Too often we feel neglected and distant from the table because people have pulled the chair out from under us and kept us distant. In fact, I would argue that the majority of people who don’t like Jesus, don’t like Him because of how other people have treated them. And Jesus has something to say to those who prevent others from coming to the table.
One day Jesus was walking through the Temple and he saw some corrupt practices going on. There were some money changers who were profiting on people who simply wanted to worship God. They made it too expensive for these worshippers to ever dream of having a place at the table… When Jesus sees this he expresses some righteous anger and actually begins flipping over all the tables in the Temple… Read the whole thing in Mark 11:15-18 and see how Jesus expresses His anger!
But here’s the bottom line — Jesus overturns the tables because people were keeping other people from His table. In other words, Jesus will not let someone else limit your access to Him. In fact, He went to even greater lengths than just turning over some tables… He went to the cross. And on the cross, Jesus says to each of us…
“I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done or how you’ve failed. My sacrifice, my new covenant is for you, the ground is level here and you have a place at the table.”
You see, Jesus breaks down the barriers and the caste systems and the pretense and the self importance and He forgives AND gives you A PLACE AT HIS TABLE.
So there’s two brief points of application in all of this:
First, don’t be that person that keeps people from God. Jesus will get mad. And He will respond accordingly. Instead, focus on being like Jesus and bringing more people to the table.
Second, don’t believe the lie that you’re not wanted at His table. He died for you. He loves you. And He wants nothing more than to be in relationship with you. And if you want a place at His table, we would love nothing more than to walk with you to your seat and help you in any way we can.
On Sunday we talked about scams. Nobody likes to be scammed. I’ve heard horror stories of people losing thousands of dollars because they believed someone who pretended to be something they weren’t… But if we zoom in a little bit, most of us would admit that we run a scam everyday. We try to scam God, the people around us, and ourselves. We don’t do it intentionally, but we all do it.
I’m no psychologist, but I recently read an interesting article about Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance refers to the ability for humans to hold certain beliefs, yet do actions that go directly against those beliefs (AKA - a scam… I say one thing, but I do another). The presence of Cognitive Dissonance will often cause feelings of unease or discomfort because inside we recognize the difference between who we say we are and what we do.
You’ll see this all around: It’s the politician who opposes prostitution but is caught with a high priced call girl (A call girl isn’t REALLY a prostitute). It’s the addict who insists he/she is sober because they aren’t using that drug anymore, but has instead switched to a less harmful substance. It’s when you get denied for your dream job, and then tell everyone it was a dead-end job and the interviewer was a jerk anyways. To put it in more simple terms, it’s the process of self-justification.
Most of the time it happens unconsciously… In fact, it works better that way. Imagine if we said to ourselves, “Okay self… I’m going to convince you that, even though he’s not, this person is idiot, so that you feel better about being rejected….” Instead, we just do it without thinking about the process - “I was rejected because that guy is an idiot.”
One author writes, “The talent for self-justification is surely the greatest achievement of the human brain. When it comes to justifying actions, every human being acquires the intelligence of an Einstein, the imagination of a Shakespeare, and the subtlety of a Jesuit.”
Let’s be real… We all do it. We all run scams on ourselves. We run scams on God. And we run scams on others. Our heart says “We want this, so we should go for it…” But our moral compass says, “Nope that’s not what you need.” And this tension is where a scam become inevitable. The only way to fix this problem, is to cure the source of the problem… The human heart.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it? (17:9).
So if that’s true, what do we do? It kind of wrecks the whole life philosophy of “Follow Your Heart,” doesn’t it?
What if, instead of following our heart, we surrendered our heart to follow God? In other words, don’t follow your heart (which is deceitful and will leave you feeling the discomfort of saying one thing, but doing another), but surrender that heart to the Lordship of Jesus. Jon Bloom says,
Note that Jesus did not say to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled, just believe in your hearts.” He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
If you want to quit running a scam on yourself and everyone around you, it starts by being honest with yourself. Remember that your heart will always tell you what you want, not what you need. It does not have your best intentions in mind.
So, listen to your heart, yes, but only so you can know yourself better. And then surrender that knowledge of yourself to God so that He can transform and change your heart to be more like Him.
Running a scam may work for a bit, but before long the desires of your heart will overpower the front you’re putting up. Instead, quit pretending you’re perfect, quit running the heart scam, and with brutal honesty and transparency, give that heart to Jesus.
I have not yet arrived, but I try very hard to live a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism is the idea that we are to live with less so that we have time for more. I listen to podcasts and read books about how to be a better minimalist, how to be a minimalist with kids, and how to decrease the amount of clutter in your house. I have about 7 T-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and 4 dress shirts that I cycle through each week. I love everything about minimalism.
But I’m not always great at it. Because there is this very powerful drive to always get new items. New shirts, new shoes, new cars, new games, new furniture, and new pants… I love getting new things. I love the research that goes into purchasing new items, I love opening the box of a new iPhone, and I love planning out how I will care for my new car. Part of this love of new things comes from our materialistic culture - companies know us better than we know ourselves and they know how to market to us. But this desire for new things and more things doesn’t mix well with my desire to be a minimalist. At some point, I must choose which way of life I’m going to live by.
And the same is true when it comes to being made new in Christ. We can’t hold onto our OLD life while looking for NEW life in Christ. We love the idea of new, but we are often drawn back into the old. Let's be real... We struggle to let go of the past. And we try to fix ourselves with solutions that were never meant to fix us. Jesus spoke to this reality and he told us to not let it happen:
Mark 2:21-22 says,
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
You see, new and old don’t mix well together. My desire to live a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t mix well with our culture’s incessant need for more. And our desire to be made new in Christ, doesn’t mix well with the temptation of living in our old way of life.
The truth is, and that I pray everyone accepts and believes, Jesus wants to make you new. He doesn’t want you to be burdened by regulation and tradition, shame and guilt, or that sin habit you can’t seem to break. He wants to make you totally and completely new... Not by using an old patch or old leather, but by giving you new life instead.
But we can’t have a foot in both camps. Being made new will require total surrender to who He’s forming you into. It might mean tough conversations with friends or family. It will mean slowing down and processing before responding. And it will definitely mean a transformation in your thoughts, mind, and actions.
But the reward of fully accepting the new and letting go of the old is worth the discomfort. It’s worth the self-denial and the tough conversations. Because when you surrender the old for the new, you are entering into an eternal relationship with Jesus forever. So, quit trying to fix new problems with old solutions … Instead, surrender that old life to Jesus and be made totally new.
As you reflect on being made new today, check out this song. This song has ministered to me on more than one occasion as an encouragement to let Jesus make me new.