God Never Said That: “It’s all up to you…”

When I was young and growing up, I used to believe some strange things. Things that I NOW know are completely and utterly ridiculous. I’m going to be vulnerable for a few minutes and share a list of stuff that I full-heartedly believed as a kid. 

  1. Who remembers the show, “The Magic School Bus” with the crazy teacher lady… Miss Frizzle? Because of that show, I used to think that if I swallowed a watermelon seed, it could get stuck in my tummy and start growing into a full watermelon. That terrified me. Did anyone else ever think that?
  2. What about this one. For several years, I was terrified of stepping on a crack as I walked down the sidewalk or on the tiles in stores or schools. Why? Because if you step on a crack, you would break your mother’s back. I didn’t want to break her back and when I did mess up and step on a crack, I thought for sure I just busted my mom. It wasn’t true though OR I just got lucky all these times! I still struggle with this need of avoiding any cracks on my daily walks. It’s just a thing. 
  3. Lastly, and I’m pretty sure I’m alone with this one… it’s kind of out there. I was told once when I was younger from one of my friends that traffic lights worked because there were little people who lived and worked underneath the street and pressed buttons to change from RED to GREEN to YELLOW and back to RED. When my friend told me about this, my mind was blown! I thought, “How cool is that job!” I wanted that job. I really did and for several years, all I could think about as my parents drove me around were those people under the street making the traffic lights work. I still remember the day when I learned it wasn’t true. We were on the way to one of my baseball games and I asked my parents how the people under the street got their groceries? Not if they were real or something logical like that, but I wanted to know where they got their milk and bread. I learned quickly at that point by my parent’s uncontrollable laughter that no little people were pressing the traffic light buttons underneath the intersections. 

This is just a shortlist of weird stuff that I believed when I was a kid and it probably explains some stuff about me and who I am now. I’d love to hear some of your stories from when you were a kid share them in the comments below! 

But it’s worth mentioning that we’ve probably all believed something crazy that someone has told us as a joke or in passing that we can now look back on and admit, “I was a little silly for believing that.” Perhaps it wasn’t intentional by the other person. Maybe they shared a version of the truth or what they thought was true and we simply accepted it and move on. We filed the information away in the back of our memory with no intention of using it ever again.

Maybe it was just a misinterpretation that somebody heard and now they’re resharing that idea. Did you ever play the game as a kid called Telephone?

I’d start on one side of the room with a sentence “The yellow dog jumped over the red ball, picked up the blue stick and ran away to the dog house” and ask everyone in the room to whisper it to the next person it was secretly shared one-by-one until everyone in the room had shared it. The odds are when someone shares that sentence out loud, it wouldn’t be the same as it was when I first shared it. 

Each of person along the communication path would have no reason to believe that the sentence that was heard was anything other than the truth.

That’s why I loved how Ted opened up his message last week when he was talking about truth. It fits in so well with what I want to spend this week and next week talking about.

He asked the question, “How important is truth to you?”

How important is truth? I appreciated how he shared his heart on absolute truth Ted because we must know what absolute truth is. 

Our society, for the most part, believes truth to be relative. As Christians and as good Bereans, we know that we have a truth that is absolute. We have the Word of God and we know this is true. Unfortunately, the world we live in has misinterpreted and misrepresented what this truth is. And that’s what I’d like to talk about. 

This series is called “God Never Said That” and we’re going to look at a few things that the world and Satan are is telling us about God that just aren’t true. Sadly, these LIES are close enough to the truth that maybe even some of us in this room have believed them before. Some are even “backed up” with scripture. That’s one reason why it’s super important that we are careful when reading a single verse and not fully studying the context of the passage of scripture. 

One of the things that I constantly say when teaching students as we study the Bible is that we need to understand the context of what we’re reading.

Without context, I can use scriptures to label God as an angry, graceless, blood-thirsty, greedy, jealous God and scriptures that state Jesus is dead after being killed on the cross and buried away in some old tomb.

But we know, because we have the Bible that God is loving, gracious, life-giving, generous, jealous God and Jesus rose from the grave 3 days later with victory in hand. Amen? 

So, what are the LIES that we’re going to look at today? I’m going to tell you right now, I’ve believed these lies before. I listened to the enemy whisper these lies into my ear and it tore me up from the floor up.

John 8:44 tells us that Satan is the father of lies and John 10:10 says his purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy. This is the one telling us these lies. Here is the first one. 

Lie #1: “This wouldn’t be happening to you if you were a better Christian.” 

Lie #2: “It’s all up to you.”

Read both of those one more time.

Have any of you ever heard these lies? Anyone ever believed them? Let me explain them a little bit more.

Lie #1: “This wouldn’t be happening to you if you were a better Christian.” Let me be clear… God never said that. You see, Satan is going to tell you this, “If you really loved God, you’d be good. You wouldn’t be struggling with that sin and these bad things wouldn’t be happening to you or your family… if you REALLY loved God. Why do you keep falling into the same sin over and over again? Why do you keep failing like you do? You must not be that good of a Christian.” 

We are Satan’s favorite targets. He accuses us, telling us how bad we are. He reminds us of the big of losers we are and how worthless we are. He reminds us of our guilt and shame.

David once wrote about how he believed in this lie in Psalm 38:4, “My guilt has overwhelmed me, it is a burden to too heavy to bear.”

And the next one. Lie #2: “It’s all up to you.” Again… God never said that. This one is similar to Lie #1. This is another phrase that Satan uses to remind us of our guilt and shame. He says, “You may be saved by grace, but you are sanctified (made holy) by what you do.” It’s on you to stop being worthless. It’s up to you to stop struggling with your sin. Jesus bought your ticket to heaven, but now you have to fly the plane to get there.

Let me ask another question. Who has ever been a member of the “Try Harder Club”? You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s when we try to convince ourselves that we can be better if we only try harder. We say something like, “I can stop having those lustful thoughts about a coworker if we just try harder.” Or “I can stop drinking whenever I want if I just try a little harder.”

Satan wants us to believe two different lies here. 1) We can fix ourselves and 2) Jesus doesn’t want to help. These are two separate versions of the same lie But if these are lies, and God never said these things to Christians, what did he say? 

    Turn to Galatians 3 with me and let’s see what God tells us on this subject. First, context. Remember we need to understand the full picture. It’s not helpful to fight these lies with misrepresented scripture. 

    Paul was writing to a group of Christians in Galatia who were debating the truthfulness behind these lies. Some thought that they needed to continue to follow the Jewish laws and customs despite having put their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. They still believed their salvation was up to what they did or didn’t do; whether or not they belonged to the Try Harder Club or not.

But Paul writes in chapter 3:

1 Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. | Galatians 3:1-5 (NLT)

This is the message that God was giving to the Galatians through Paul’s writing. God wants us to understand that if the work of God’s Spirit is required to get the process started, why would we assume that we can somehow take over the process halfway through? Why, after getting started with the power of God, would we try to revert to living on our own strength. 

The great news of the Gospel is that we are not only saved by grace, but we are made holy (sanctified) by God’s grace.

Here is God’s truth: Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” That’s a good truth. That’s a good promise. Amen?

With that being said, we have another truth that we need to get to. But, this one is hard to swallow at first. Are you ready? 

You can be close to Jesus AND STILL end up in a world of trouble.

As Christians, we’re going to have bad days, but they aren’t typically a result of a lack of love for Jesus. It’s more likely to happen because of our love for Jesus. 

I’m going to read through some passages quickly where we can see this idea and these are all direct statements from Jesus…

John 16:33 – I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Matthew 5:10-12 – God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

Matthew 10:22 – And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.

Luke 6:22 – What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 

John 15:18-19 – 18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

Jesus made it clear that troubles were going to come our way. So don’t let Satan lie to you. Those troubles aren’t necessarily a sign of your disobedience or your weak faith. 

Where does that leave us? Satan is tricky. He can and will use ideas and phrases close to what you would think might be in scripture. So how can we know what is truth and what is a lie? 

The first step. Read your Bible. This is truth. If you want to know what truth is, it’s right here. Read your Bible.

That seemed like a good Sunday School answer right! What else can you do? 

The next step, we need to understand the difference between GUILT and GOD.

There are going to be times when you fail. It’s inevitable. Sin, poor choices, selfish motives will sometimes win the day and when they do, we will find ourselves having to deal with the consequences of our actions. 

However, what I’m starting to learn is this. We often mistake the voice of guilt for the voice of God. They aren’t the same. Guilt isn’t from God. Remember those words this week. Guilt isn’t from God. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your guilt, that’s not God speaking. Those are more lies.

God’s going to sound like this, “This isn’t my best for you. I want more for you than this, much more. You can do better. Aim higher.” 

That’s called conviction. God convicts you to a higher standard. He doesn’t guilt you for failing to meet his standard. When he speaks about your failings, he will do so with an upward pull. That’s the difference between conviction and guilt. This is how we can know the difference between guilt and conviction.

  • Guild condemns; conviction calls you to something better.
  • Guilt tears down; conviction builds up.
  • Guilt kills hope; conviction inspires hope.
  • Guild separates you from God; conviction is motivated by love.
  • Guilt leaves you feeling worthless; conviction leaves you knowing you can do better
  • Guilt seeks to destroy; conviction seeks to restore.
  • Guilt produces shame and despair; conviction yields holiness and joy.

I want to finish with Jesus words in Matthew.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light. | Matthew 11:28-30

Guilt isn’t from God.

Miscarriages, bad accidents, divorces, tragedies, and so on… when they happen, they’re not always our fault. When we are at fault, God tells us to REPENT and DO BETTER, but he NEVER shames or tears us down. Beyond that, don’t assume that all of your troubles are a result of your failing God. If we look back at those scriptures from earlier, we can assume that some of our troubles are because we are exactly where God wants us to be. 

Regardless of the source of the storm, we can find rest in God.

It’s time for us to set aside the yoke of guilt and shame of our sin. It’s a heavy burden for us to carry on our own and it’s not one that God wants us to carry. That’s why he sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and take that burden from us.

As Christians, we aren’t supposed to live in regret. Yes. You will sin. I will sin. We will all sin. But guilt and shame don’t define who we are. Grace does. 

It’s time to leave that guilt, the shame, and the “it’s all up to me” attitude at the foot of the cross. Let Jesus carry that burden for you.

He wants to do it. He chose to do it. 

And lastly please remember this, GUILT INS’T FROM GOD. GRACE IS.

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