Don't Be a Sourpuss! - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Don't Be a Sourpuss!

It always starts out small.  Seemingly insignificant.  A missed phone call, A forgotten birthday card.  A Facebook post taken out of context.  A wedge is slipped in, so tiny it’s not even seen… but it’s there.  The crack in the door lets in the outside environment.  The humidity of tone, the wind of a glare.  Before long, the snowball effect is in full effect.  What had been minor has now blown up into a full-scale misunderstanding. 

Anyone ever in a relationship – boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, sibling, or even school lab partner – knows what these blowups look like.  As with any conflict, we have to look for the path towards reconciliation – and then we have to work at it.  Conflicts do not resolve themselves.  Much of great relationships are built on how partners work together when unexpected life events are thrown their way.  That requires communication before the crisis, and emergency action plan developed and implemented, a safety team that actively looks for tiny wedges and remediates them before huge damage is done.
What happens when you don’t address bitterness?  It gets into your soul.  It affects your body, your entire being.  Just in case you don’t recognize bitterness, I have a few pictures.  Maybe you relate – maybe you don’t.  I call this the images of bitterness.
Let me start with a picture of what we look like when we are not bitter – when God has created us and we are living for him – in good relationships with those around us.

FIRST PICTURE – Smiling baby
Now, let’s look at a picture of someone who has let bitterness get in the way of life…

SECOND IMAGE – bitter women
OK.  Let’s be fair.  Women get blamed for being the bitter betty’s all the time.  But bitterness is an equal opportunity effect.  It’s a condition that doesn’t care if you are a man or a woman

THIRD IMAGE – bitter man.
Some of you might want to take these pictures home and put them on the morning mirror.  Look at your face – which one are you more like!
As followers of God, we cannot afford to become bitter.  As a particular people, chosen by God, saved by the power of Jesus Christ, and endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit to spread the good news, we cannot allow the sourpuss effect, bitterness to creep into our lives.
I’m gonna be honest – Bitterness is a natural byproduct of living.  It’s the easiest thing to slide into.  So, what must we do to avoid it.
Today, we will look at one person who had every right to be bitter.  All the conditions necessary for bitterness to succeed was there.  We learn about John the Baptist approach in Luke 7:18-23.  Please stand with me as we read God’s word together.
18 tThe disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ ” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” 
Shall we pray…

Let’s quickly review who John the Baptist is.  We know his birth story pretty well.  He was just a few months older than his cousin Jesus.  When Mary, the mother of Jesus was informed by the Holy Spirit that she was with child, she went to her cousin Elizabeth’s house.  Even in utero, John the Baptist, as an unborn child, leaped with joy in the presence of God.  John had a particular calling upon his life.  As the son of a prominent religious leader, he had a career that he could have undertaken – but God’s plan was for him to prepare the way for Christ.  To start toiling in the hard ground, breaking it up so that the seeds of salvation would find root.  He called on people to repent.  He baptized people in the river, symbolic of washing off the old life and embracing the new.  Baptism brought joy and erased bitterness, it was a public commitment to living a new life.  Jesus approached John to be baptized – not that Jesus needed salvation, but so that the Holy Spirit could inaugurate his ministry.  John proclaimed that he was not worthy to even baptize Jesus, but recognized Him as the one who would reset the world and bring hope to the people.  On that day of baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, represented by a dove.  A voice thundered from heaven, declaring that Jesus was the son of God.  John knew in his innermost being, in his heart of hearts, that Jesus was the Messiah, come to save the world.

How excited do you think John was?  For over a decade, John had been preaching in the wilderness, setting the stage – knowing that this day was coming.  And here it was.  The excitement was unbearable, the tension great.  What was God going to do! John had his list of things that needed to be changed and he was ready.

You’ve been there.  Everything falls into place.  The big event is ready.  The curtain raises, the drumroll echoes.

And nothing.  No one walks on stage.  The music doesn’t play. 

Nothing happens.  Maybe I came too early, you think.  Maybe it’s scheduled for tomorrow, you say.  A week goes by.  Maybe it’s this week, you wonder.  Maybe it’s next month.  Time floats more... and more… and more.

And disappointment sets in.  the stage is set – the sourpuss effect is front and center.  Confusion reigns.  Will bitterness be next?  The opportunity is there.  If you want to avoid bitterness, recognize its signs.
Bitterness appears when we are confused by God’s plan.
Have you ever been perplexed?  Stumped?  Just have no clue how to solve the riddle in front of you? 
I was excited.  The boxes arrived.  Our daughter’s first toddler bed.  I splurged – I got the Noah’s Ark one.  There was only one problem.  I had to put it together myself.  Fortunately, instructions were included.  Unfortunately, I could not figure them out.  Pieces were supposed to be labeled, but a few labels had fallen off.  The picture on the diagram did not quite look like that objects before me.  I was confused.  Eventually we got it put together, with only a half a dozen parts left over.  I figured those probably weren’t really needed, right?  Anyone who has ever put together IKEA furniture knows exactly what I was going through.  Sometimes we just get confused on the plan.  Thankfully, my wife could read the instructions better than I can, usually!  Without here, I would look like a grumpy old man, throw down the Allen wrench and stalk off. Bitter at whomever skimped on writing the instructions – I could not see the whole plan.

And this was the exact place where John the Baptist now finds himself in.  Several years have gone by.  Nothing drastic has changed and John is confused.  He thought he had the plan all figured out.  He knew it was supposed to happen a certain way – and it wasn’t -- the timing was off.

Timing is everything.  John felt like a Super Bowl QB, throwing his spirals downfield, but the receiver was never where he was supposed to be.  The game plan was falling apart.  It would become easy for John to begin to question what he had been doing the last 30 years.  He thought he and the coach were on the same page – but it didn’t seem like that now.  So, he did what good QB’s do.  John had a choice at this point to become immediately bitter.  To storm off the field, throwing his helmet at teammates.  He could have lashed out in anger.  He could have let bitterness contort his face.  He could have started plotting how to do things his own way to force the issue.

But John did what good QB’s do.  He asked a clarifying question.  When bitterness was knocking at the door, John reviewed his own life and realized God as there all the time – so let’s just check in and see what’s going on.  So, John sent a messenger to get reassurance.  Are you the one?  Did I make a mistake?  Should I be looking for another?  Are we still on the game plan?

There are times in our life, we get confused by God’s plan.  God, I thought your timeline was this.  It feels lonely walking out in front – did I get ahead of you or behind you?  These are questions that we must take to God directly.  The more we become confused, the more we must dig into the word of God – seeking His Counsel, asking for his clarification, praying that our eyes are opened.  The more we are confused, the deeper our prayers must be—crying, yearning, desiring that we walk in his paths, praying that we are in his light.

When we do that, God answers.  And he lets us know.  Many times, we are walking on the right path – it’s just the time of the shadow – but don’t worry a new day is rising.  Sometimes, we realize, that whoops, we’ve wandered a bit – and God can give us a course correction.  The one thing we can bank on, however, is that God is there, still guiding and leading.  He’s got the timeline all figured out.  There is no need to worry.

Want to overcome the sourpuss effect?  Recognize confusion as the doorway to bitterness and get clarification directly from God.

Anyone ever called into the boss’s office, expecting a raise, but then finding out you don’t get one?  I know it’s too early for Christmas references, but many of you have seen what happened in the Griswold Christmas Vacation when the expected bonus check to cover the cost of the new swimming pool turns out to be a membership to the jelly of the month club.  When you were a kid, ever open up a Christmas present – expecting to get the latest toy or game – and discovering the box is filled with new socks and underwear?  Thanks, Mom!

What can happen?  Disappointment.  Your expectations were built so high, that when it doesn’t happen, everything comes crashing down.  Disappointment can turn into rage which hardens into bitterness. 

Bitterness entangles us when things do not meet our expectations
John had a list, and he was checking it twice.  He knew what the promised Messiah was supposed to do. It was prophesied in Isaiah 61.  We even know this passage, because Jesus himself proclaimed it to the synagogue as inaugurated his ministry.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal[a] the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;

John’s heard the stories.  John knows Jesus is the anointed one.  So, he checks off each item.
·                     Has Jesus brought good news to the poor.  CHECK
·                     Has Jesus performed healings?  CHECK
·                     Has Jesus healed the broken hearted?  CHECK
·                     Has Jesus proclaimed liberty to the captives?  CHECK

And guess what.  When John’s messengers talk to Jesus he also confirms each one of this.  He lists them off… He says look around.  Jesus has fulfilled every bit of the prophesy.
But there’s one thing that didn’t get checked off yet – and that’s the one John was looking for.

·                     Has Jesus brought freedom to the captives?

Why is this such a burning question for John?  There’s a reason he sent messengers to Jesus and didn’t go himself.  John was sitting in jail on trumped up charges.  John, who had set everything into motion, cleared the path, and set Jesus up – was in jail and was headed to the death penalty.
Hey, if that’s not a motive for bitterness, what is?  How angry do you get when someone else takes credit for your work?  The teacher rewards your classmate for work you did.  The other guy gets the promotion for your idea.  You get unceremoniously discarded and passed by, becoming a slave to your job, a slave to your bitterness.
Ironically, John, even in his captive state, was still free from the noose of bitterness – That’s the real captivity.  Author and Teacher Joyce Meyer writes -- I know from personal experience how damaging it can be to live with bitterness and unforgiveness. I like to say it's like taking poison and hoping your enemy will die. And it really is that harmful to us to live this way.
John is at this point where he can turn bitter or become better.  He can blame everyone else, he can blame God.  John can put so much stock in himself that he forgets who the real Savior is, or he can rejoice in what Christ might do.
There are times in our lives things don’t turn out the way we want them to, the way we expected.  It’s too easy to get angry.  But the freedom from prison Christ offers is not just the Herodian jail.  It’s freedom from the chains that we bind ourselves in.  Freedom from the webs that we get stuck in.  It hits John like a wallop.  The Messianic kingdom is not just a localized jailbreak.  It’s not just a message for those living in Palestine – The Freedom Christ is bringing is for all time and eternity, past, present, and future. The freedom Christ is bringing is for every race, ethnicity, and language group.  The freedom Christ is bringing is designed to break the bitter racist hearts and to lift up God’s Kingdom of peace.
As I watched hate play out across the tv screens yesterday, causing more anger, death, and confusion, my heart grew heavy.  That is not the kingdom of God.  That was the kingdom of bitterness, fueled by demonic powers.  That was the picture of racists bound up in bitterness, confused by sin. 
The political commentators quickly broke off into their respective camps blaming the usual suspects.  Guess what folks, the solution to these issues are not the Democrat party, or the Republican party.  Yes, systemic solutions will need to be created to solve systemic problems.  But the only solution that can truly free people from the captivity of bitterness and racism is the Power of the life changing Holy Spirit working through you and me. 

This leads to my final point today.  Bitterness is eradicated when we realize Jesus is enough.
Jesus stated in verse 23 – Blessed is the one who is not offended by me. 
John had a choice, John had a question.  And Jesus answered him.  John could have taken offense.  He could have been upset that his life was on the line.  He could have allowed bitterness to invade his soul.  But John recognized once more the truth to his old mantra, the words he used to speak to his disciples about Jesus – He Must increase, so I may decrease.  Those are words to live by.  When we exalt Jesus, when we don’t take any thing that God is doing in our lives as an offense, bitterness will never creep in.  We will never turn into a sourpuss.

I’m going to let you into a secret.  We all go through times of suffering and hardship.  Sometimes the results aren’t even pretty and don’t turn out like we want them.  But we can choose what to do with that.  There are Christians who walk around like the entire world is ending – their face doesn’t share the good news anymore.  I’ve heard non-Christians say – if that’s the way Christianity is – I don’t want any part of it!  And then there are those Christians who have endured, but have the peace of Christ radiating from their face.  After they’ve finished talking with people, I’ve heard others say – I want what they have.

A life free from bitterness, is a life worth sharing
The answer Jesus gave to John satisfied him.  Even though he knew his life was short, he told his disciples to continue sharing God’s word and to continue preparing the way.  His legacy laid the foundation.  Years later, when the Apostle Paul arrived in Ephesus, guess who was there ready to greet him?  A whole bunch of John the Baptist’s disciples. 
John could have put out word to not follow Jesus – but he never did that.  He continued to let his followers know to embrace the teaching of Jesus Christ.  The success of the early church in Ephesus was a direct result of John choosing not to be bitter.
There are many reasons everyone in here could be bitter.  But God has not called us to be bitter – He wants us to share his love with others.  Over the next few weeks and months, we will have opportunities to invite our neighbors in, to share God’s love in our schools, to make a difference in our community.  We can share in the mission of Christ.

Bitterness is like a dirty diaper – If not changed, it will stink up the whole place.
Ephesians 4:31 says it pretty sums it up.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along every form of malice.
By the way, changing the diaper is a great first step – but if you leave it in the room, it doesn’t help much either.  You’ve got to put it in the scented diaper genie and take it to the dumpster.  Do not be the Christian who gets rid of the bitterness but leaves it sitting right there in the room. There are those today who think we’ve gotten rid of it – but it’s still stinking up the room.  This week, take a deep look at yourself in the mirror.  Use the faces if you need to.  Let God sort it out.  Let God remove any traces of the sourpuss effect and set you truly free.