New Hope Notes
What Fuels Your Actions
Christmas Is...God Investing In What's Most Important
Pastor Elwin Ahu
It is projected that this year, shoppers will spend somewhere between $475-$500 billion this holiday season. In fact, some retailers suggest that 50% of their annual profits will come from holiday sales. And how do we pay for that? Paper or plastic.
In the olden days, people used to use anything of value to go shopping. For example, a farmer may have taken a pig to market to exchange for something that he might have needed. Can you imagine doing that today? Of course not. But today I’d like to talk about a different kind of currency that most of us use to get what it want: our moods. Anger, intimidation, guilt, fear…these are all moods and emotions that we use to manipulate others to get what we want.
We live in a “me” society, in a world where it’s me first. Even when we give things away, it is often only to get something in return. This type of me mentality is often translated into behaviors where we take things into our own hands rather than waiting upon the Lord to bless us. We are often acting out of anger or fear:
· ANGER IS: WHEN
· FEAR IS: WHEN
Consider the sins of this world such as hate, murder, and jealousy. All of these sins are rooted in anger – a feeling that life has not been fair to you or it has been better to others. Then what about envy, gossip, cheating, stealing, and lying? Aren’t all of these stirred by the fear that life will not be fair to you in the future so you lash out at others or try to get for yourself what you fear life (or more aptly, God) will not give to you? But the Bible tells us this:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph. 5:1-2)
The holiday season is filled with aromas. The aroma of roast turkey and fresh baked pumpkin pie. For Christmas, the wonderful smell of Christmas trees. These fragrances refresh our spirits during those seasons. In a similar way, this passage urges you to be a fragrant aroma to those around you – to freshen their spirits with all that God has to offer. When you enter a room, what kind of scent do you give off? Are you sour, spoiled, or obnoxious so you give off an unpleasant smell or stench? Or are you an imitator of God – joyful and content – sharing His blessing and fragrant aroma with others?
So what is the key to that fragrant aroma? How do we prepare ourselves to emit a pleasant scent? Well, the first thing to do is…
1. RELAX – GOD IS IN CONTROL…REALLY!!!
As we talked earlier, we often operate out of anger and fear; we feel slighted by God or we don’t trust Him fully to provide for us. (Unfortunately, we usually assess this based on our “wants,” not necessarily our “needs”.) But the Bible tells us…
“For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels – everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.” (Col. 1:16 MSG)
Everything has a purpose. What is it? To glorify Him. Not to glorify us but to glorify Him. This is such a basic foundational principle of Christianity. And as the scripture says, God is in control in absolutely everything, even when things don’t seem to make sense. What Paul is saying in Colossians is that we exist for His purposes, not Him for ours! Creation isn’t all about us; it’s all about Him – and our purpose, along with everything else in this world, is to glorify Him.
As a former attorney and judge, I’m a pretty analytical guy and I analyzed everything and came to the conclusion that God doesn’t owe me anything…but I owe Him my trust.
Sometimes in life, we end up in situations where we ask God to do things and it doesn’t happen so we get angry at God or we start to not trust Him. But think about this: life is made up of two kinds of laws: natural laws (e.g., gravity) and spiritual laws. Sometimes we challenge God by saying things like, “God, I’m so hurt and angry that I’m going to jump off of this building and if you’re real, you need to save me.” So I jump. What will happen? I’ll fall! Why? Because God doesn’t exist? No! I’ll fall because I’ve broken the law – in this case, both laws – the natural law of gravity and the spiritual law that states we should not test God.
Remember, God is always in control and in the end, you will win if you follow His laws.
“And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp now the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:5)
Two things I want you to catch from this:
(1) Avoid an attitude of resignation because God works through people and He can’t work through you if you’re convinced that things can’t or won’t be done.
(2) Relax. When you understand this [God is in control], you can relax…but you have to believe it in your gut.
Relaxing (because you understand and accept that God is in control) is the first step to emitting a fragrant aroma, but what is the second?
2. ELIMINATE ENTITLEMENTS FROM YOUR WISH LIST.
Entitlements are things that we think we deserve. The world of marketing really understands this. Their message is: you should be wearing this dress, driving this car, or own this product because you deserve it! Again, this kind of thinking stems from feelings that God/life hasn’t given us or won’t be giving us what we deserve. But ask yourself, “How much is enough?”
When you accept that God has given you everything that you have (and everything that you need) – and that He is in control – we can rest easy.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” (Eph. 1:3)
He has given us every spiritual blessing – not 90%, 95%, or even 99.9% but 100%, every! If that is the case, why do we wish for more things when God has given us everything we need? It’s because we get a sense of entitlement. Do you know what that is? It’s adultery.
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the work makes himself an enemy of God…Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and He will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands…and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:4-8)
Flesh and the spirit cannot co-exist within us, just as God and the Devil cannot co-exist in the same place. When things are not going well, we will often take a quick peek at what else we think we could (or should) have. What most people don’t realize though is that when they open the door to take a quick peek, the Devil sneaks inside. And when we allow the Devil to sneak inside, what we’re also doing is pushing God out (since God and the Devil cannot co-exist in the same place).
So how do you combat that? Be content. If you are content with what God has already provided, everything else is gravy! I was reminded of this recently by our 5-year old son Jared. He was recently awarded two medals for his participation in inline hockey. When he received the medals, we were really proud of him and I thought, “You deserve that for showing up at practice and participating in every game.” On the way home from the hockey game, we were going to stop by to see Tiana – a girl who Jared almost considers as a sister – to see her in a game she was playing. Just as we arrived, Jared started to take one of his medals off because he said he wanted to give it to Tiana. I told him no, that he should keep it because he deserved it, but he kept saying that he wanted to give it to Tiana. After a few minutes of going back and forth, I finally realized that Jared’s desire to share his medal with Tiana was based on his contentment. What he was saying is, “I have enough and am content. This is just ‘stuff.’ I have all that I need already.”
When we are content, as Jared demonstrated, and have eliminated entitlements from our wish list, there is one more thing we can do that will help us to give off the fragrant aroma of God…realize:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility or mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)
What kind of aroma are you giving off?
“Do everything readily and cheerfully – not bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night…” (Phil. 2:14-15 MSG)
Repeat: What kind of aroma are you giving off?
This Christmas, remember what the true reason is for the season and think about what is fueling your actions. The Bible calls us to be “…imitators of God,…an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Recognize that anger and fear are fuel for sin but if you relax (because you know that God is in control), eliminate entitlements from your wish list, and remember that life is not about you – that it is about glorifying Him – you will be a fragrant aroma that will freshen people’s spirits and draw them closer to Him.
1. Think of something that consistently makes you angry. Why does it make you angry? How does God play in that situation?
2. Think of something that you’re afraid of. What are you actually afraid of? Again, how does God play into this situation?
3. Do you truly believe God is in control of everything? Cite an example either way: share about a situation and what you did that demonstrated your trust, or lack of trust, in Him. If you trust Him fully, how did you get to that point? If you don’t yet, what will you do to change that?
4. What entitlement do you hold onto that you need to give to God? To help you let go, think of an entitlement that you have already given to Him and what He has done for you in return.
5. Name one thing in your life you think you deserve credit for. Honestly speaking, does God deserve some (or all) of the credit? Thank Him for His blessing(s) and figure out how you can glorify Him with/for it.
"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong with our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NLT)
Sermon Notes Ministry: Debbie Chang, Leighton Loo,
Doreen Rabaino & Jay Tsukayama