The Table 2017
“From Chair to Chair”
December 10, 2017
Every time we come to a table to eat a meal, we find ourselves seated in a chair. But the chairs at the table represent much more than places to relax and dine. In this message, Pastor Ed Young looks closely at the chairs around the table of the local church. He reminds us of what they represent, and then challenges us with the reality that it’s not enough to sit in a chair and be content.
The purpose of the table is to help people move from chair to chair in order to experience all that God has for their lives.
ILLUS: I saw a good looking girl in church, when I was 14. Her name was Lisa Lee, now of course Lisa Young. But when I saw her I said to myself, “Man, that girl is hot.” But then I thought, quickly, “Man, she’s out of my league.” But a friend, his nickname was Bubbles, David Bubbles Swindler; I’ve never forgotten that guy; he gave me a note. He goes, “Man, I can tell this Lisa Lee girl wouldn’t mind if you gave her a call.” So I gave her a call. We ended up connecting.
One of our first dates; I couldn’t drive, I was 14; was when I invited her over to our house. We lived about 30 minutes away from where Lisa lived. We were sitting around our kitchen table. In fact, this is the table where we sat around. This is my kitchen table. Before my mother died, she gave it to Lisa and I. We’ve had some great times, some great memories around this table.
One of the most stressful times was when this gorgeous girl came over to our house to eat with our family and I’d given my brothers pep talks. My youngest brother Cliff, who definitely was a surprise, was like three years old, wild, crazy, talking, talking, talking. I said, “Cliff listen.” And I tried to explain it to him where a three year old could get it, “Be calm. “There’s a girl coming over. This girl is my girlfriend.” “What’s that?” I said, “She’s my girlfriend and just be cool. Ben, watch Cliff.” And Ben understood. Ben’s kind of a quiet guy. And then I tried to get my parents kind of a talk like “Mom and dad, just try to act cool.” I was really concerned about what my mother cooked and how she presented it and what I had on and all of that.
Lisa walked into our house and I was, “Man, this is going to be great; this is going to be great.” She sat; I’ll never forget; right here and I sat right there, and for some reason Cliff was in sort of a booster thing or whatever, he was right there. So we have the ubiquitous prayer that we always pray before dinner. So we begin to talk and you know, you’re nervous. Put yourself in my shoes. Here I am 14 years old. Mom and dad, my two brothers were eating this food. And during the middle of the meal Cliff looks at Lisa and he goes, “You’re not drinking your tea. You don’t like your tea?”
And that was a little, uh okay Cliff, yeah, she likes her iced tea, whatever. I’m thinking “Oh my gosh, this is going to be nuts.” Cliff finishes early and thankfully, I was thanking the lord, he went to his room to play.
So we’re just sitting in there having a good time, finishing up the meal. My mother’s preparing to serve dessert. I look to my left and to my shock and horror, here comes Cliff back into the room totally naked. It was awful. But thankfully we made it. Lisa and I fell in love and the rest is history.
I thought I’d share that little story with you. There’s just something spectacular about the table. There’s something really huge about the table. There’s something legitimate about the table. There’s something that we always think about when we sit at the table. We think about food. We think about drink. We think about connectivity. We think about communication.
The table is mentioned a lot in the Bible. It’s so interesting. I looked it up. Over 72 times, I believe, the word table, the concept of table is talked about. We have the table in the Old Testament, it’s mentioned, the table of shewbread. And then you have the table that David talks about in Psalm 23. Then you have the table, in the New Testament, Jesus and his disciples reclining at the table. And then you have in heaven, those of us who will go to heaven, we have a feast, a forever feast with the lord at the table. I love that, the table.
The table is a metaphor for the church. It really is. At Fellowship Church, we said this for a while. We say the church is a table where people come to get fed. Will you say that with me? The church is a table where people come to get fed. Some of us know that. Some of us are like “Okay, I understand that, the church is a place where I come to get fed.”
Jesus, in John 6:35, let’s read it together, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” So carbs are good. Cosmic carbohydrate, that’s Jesus. Jesus said, “I’m the bread of life. If you believe in me you’ll live forever and ever.”
And the word believe is not just saying “Oh, there’s some bread. Oh, yeah, yeah that’s a carb. Oh, that’s whole wheat and that’s pumpernickel.”
No, it’s more that that. It’s eating the bread. It’s digesting the bread. That’s what it means to become a follower of Christ, to give your life, the totality of who you are to him. So some of us understand that. We’ve grown up in the church. We’re believers. We’ve tasted the bread of life. So we just come to the table and sit down and that’s just kind of what we do.
Others here, maybe this is your first time to go to church in a long, long time and maybe you have a lot of doubt, a lot of questions. Maybe someone coerced you to show up here. Maybe someone said “You’ll find this very interesting.” You’re not a believer. Here’s the supernatural element that you need to understand. You’ve been drawn, whether you know it or not, even if you’re way up in the balcony, you’ve been drawn by the strange aroma of the bread of life. You have this deep soulish hunger that has led you to church.
The church is a table where people come to get fed. Jesus is the bread of life and those of us who feed on the bread of life, it provides us the fuel; food is fuel; to push away from the table after we eat the bread and to discover who we are. It gives us the calories, the energy to be and to do who God wants us to be and what he wants us to do. It’s very, very important that we understand that the church is a table.
As I’ve been saying around here, there are several chairs around the table. This chair is the chair of the pastor. In this context, it would be me. I’m the dude with the food. And we say, around here, that because we’re serving the bread of life, the bread of life does not deserve, or merit some half-baked presentation. So you’ll notice when you walked in, everything is thought through, everything, hopefully, is easy to understand, is simple to get, not shallow, not superficial, simple. And when people show up they understand, “Okay, I am going to be served the bread of life, whether it’s through a little film, whether it’s through a song, whether it’s through a message.” So I’m the dude with the food.
In chair one; now this is a very interesting chair; chair one is the chair of those who don’t know the Lord. We don’t expect anyone to believe until, first of all, you feel like you belong. Ask questions, kick tires, express your doubts. Doubt and faith go hand in hand anyway. Chair one would be the guests at Fellowship. Chair one would be those people who aren’t believers yet. What we invite you to do is commit to showing up four straight weeks and I promise you God will do an amazing work in your life. I promise you. So whether your faithless or faithful, welcome to Fellowship.
In chair one we have people who have a church background. In chair one, we have people who don’t even know how to spell church and that’s great. Again, we don’t expect anyone to act like a follower of Christ until they become a follower of Christ. At Fellowship though, at all of our locations, I would say a third, give or take a third, would be those in this first chair. And we’re aware of the chair.
And I would say, when you think about spiritually maturity, those who are in chair three; I’ll talk about chair three in a second; the fastest way to mature spiritually is to concentrate on chair one. I’ll say that again. The fastest way to grow is to concentrate on chair one. And I’ll pick that up a little bit later.
So chair one will be those here that are brand new to the whole deal. Chair two would be those who have just become a follower of Christ. The Bible says you’ve been born again, you’ve been born into the family of God. That’s chair two. Your faith is fresh. You’re brand new. You’re a believer.
So a third would be those who are far away from God. A third would be those who are baby believers. We love babies. Think back to that dating story that I told you about with Cliff. In essence, I shouldn’t have freaked out. I shouldn’t have like, “Oh my gosh!” Cliff was a little toddler. He didn’t understand about why Lisa was not drinking her iced tea. Walking around naked, to him, didn’t mean a big deal at all. But to me it was like “Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?”
So we don’t expect babies to act like parents. They’re babies. Playpen whining, Gerber dining little babies, little babies. And babies sit in the high chair and the high chair is something you grow through. Chair one to chair two.
How do you get into chair two? Chair two is when you make a decision to say, “Jesus, you sit in my chair.”
Here (chair one) we just have the aroma. Here (chair two) we taste. And the Bible says, “Taste and see that God is good.” God wants you to taste the bread. It’s the bread of life. It’s that pang of hunger. It’s that soulish dissatisfaction that you feel. It can only be found in knowing Jesus Christ personally.
Have you given your life to him? Through many different ways, we’re given the opportunity to make this decision. Like when I’m speaking here, I’ll give you the chance to make the decision that only you can make. At our different classes or different seminars we have, we give you an opportunity to make this decision. One of the classes we have is a class that we’re offering today called Growth Track. It’s really what’s happening at the table. It’s how you have a relationship with Christ. It’s how you begin to read the Bible and study the Bible and grow and go and become all that God wants you to be. That’s how you move from chair two to chair three.
But it’s very easy, is it not, to sit in the I chair, the highchair and just say “I, I, I, me, me, me, my, my, my”? It’s easy to sit in the highchair and ask people about why they haven’t drunk all their iced tea. Or it’s easy, in the highchair, to run around naked. Well, we have got to go and grow through that. We really, really do.
Illus: This morning I worked out and it’s kind of funny, because people always call Dallas/Fort Worth the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, a very churched area. Well I got up and I’m driving through the streets of Dallas. No one, not one person was on the street. Even my spin class that I did, there was very few people in the spin class.
On one hand we say Dallas is a church place and I guess it is. On the other hand, I would say it’s not. I would say though, Dallas/Fort Worth is one of the most dangerous places, spiritually, that you could live on planet Earth. Did you hear that? It’s one of the most dangerous places you can live. The reason is there’s more faux faith, there’s more hypocrisy in Dallas/Fort Worth than any place I’ve ever seen in my life. There are more churches. There are more Christian radio stations, more Bible colleges, more seminaries, more TV stations, more just big steeple, few people places than any place I’ve ever traveled in my life. So we got a lot of faux faith, here in Dallas/Fort Worth.
So it’s easy to kind of blend in and say, “Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m a Christian. You know, I’m an American citizen and yeah I’m a believer.”
Just because you walk in your garage doesn’t make yourself a car. Just because you go to a church doesn’t mean that you are a follower of Christ. I know a lot of people who are churched unchurched. So a lot of people have just enough God to be dangerous.
Like this chair (the La-Z-Boy). Man there’s so many churches that I see that are in this chair. They simply go from chair two to the I chair, the highchair, then they go to the La-Z-Boy. Yeah. Don’t you love the ubiquitous La-Z-Boy? I live the La-Z-Boys are not supposed to be around tables, but in our culture La-Z-Boys are just where we get lazy, where we get comfortable.
And the thing about our church, the thing about Christianity is we should be comfortably uncomfortable. We’re comforted by Christ, but uncomfortable for him. I don’t know about you, I didn’t really want to get up this morning and work out before church. I wanted to remain in the comfort of my bed and in my home. But I know if I’m going to develop this body, physically, the God wants, I’ve got to get my butt up out of the bed, I’ve got to get uncomfortable five times a week and exercise. But if I had my way, I want to stay in the La-Z-Boy man, just chill, just relax, just enjoy the creature comforts and the comfort food that Dallas/Fort Worth offers. So interesting.
There’s so many La-Z-Boy churches around and the thing about these La-Z-Boy churches is all you see, when you go to these churches, are the bottoms of peoples’ feet, because they’re just relax, eating that comfort food, burping believers, yeah. And here is the linchpin of this deal, because the enemy does not want chair one people to come to church. I hope you know that we’re involved in spiritual warfare. You feel this cross pull, this tension in your life and maybe you’re not even a believer, that’s the enemy saying, “No, don’t do this. Head for the exits; don’t come back.”
That is the devil himself and if you don’t believe in the devil, please believe in the devil. How do you explain the mayhem that’s going on in our world? It’s more than a damaged chromosome.
Anyway, you go to chair two and you become a follower of Christ. The enemy wants you to stay in your dirty diaper, in the playpen or the I chair.
Another thing he does is he’ll say, “Hangout in the La-Z-Boy.” See, the enemy wants us to go to sleep.
I’m really good at putting babies to sleep. Did you know that? I seriously am. I’ve written a number of songs. One day I’m going to present these songs. I have, just different songs for all of our kids. Now we have a grandchild and I sing songs for her too, make them up and I think some of them really, really have potential to be huge.
Anyway, did you know the enemy likes to sing to you and me, to put us to sleep? We’re in this little La-Z-Boy. ♪ Rock-a-bye believer ♪ ♪ In the treetop ♪ ♪ Comfort will cause ♪ ♪ Your growth to stop ♪ ♪ Ignore the alarm ♪ ♪ And stay in the chair ♪ ♪ You’re telling God you really ♪ ♪ Don’t care ♪ “Shh. He’s a sleep now. He’s a pastor, but first he’s a Christian. He’s not really concerned about his neighbors who are facing a Christless eternity. He’s not concerned about the person he sees several times a week at the coffee shop. Or the person he works out with at the gym, no. No, I’m just going to hang out in the La-Z-Boy. Whoa! And if you challenge me I’m going to go to another church that’s just full of La-Z-Boys.”
But see, here’s what we don’t understand about the Christian life. The Christian life is diet and exercise. It’s not just diet. It’s not just feeding. It’s not getting fat. It’s not just eating. It’s not just information. That’s part of it. This fuel gives us the opportunity to push away from the table and to do and to be who God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.
Basically we move through this. Hey, I’m all about comfort, we’re comforted by Christ. We need to rest in that, but we’ve got to be uncomfortable for him. That’s why the church, the restaurant, the table is always in a state of expansion. The table is always in a state of expansion. Say it with me. The table is always in a state of expansion.
So number one, the church is a table where people come to get fed. Number two, the fuel from the bread of life gives us the opportunity and gives us the fuel to be all that God wants us to be. And also, number three, the church is always in a constant state of expansion.
We have leaves to this table somewhere. I don’t know where they are, but we use them all the time. Fellowship Church is always expanding, we’re always changing. You cannot remain sitting in your dirty diaper, at Fellowship Church. We’re going to challenge you. You cannot remain in the La-Z-Boy. We’re going to challenge you. And a lot of people don’t dig it. And that’s okay. There’s a lot of highchair churches. There’s a lot of La-Z-Boy churches, just looking for that miracle. You can live like hell, but you got that anointing, or that miracle, everything’s okay.
Well that’s great, but how about after the miracle? How about after the anointing? How about living life on the rugged plains of reality? How do you do that? How do you act when everybody at work says, “We’re going to the strip club? What do you do then?” “I missed the anointing.”
Sorry. What do you do? What do you do when you’re tempted to lie in the midst of a business deal, just to exaggerate, to look at that person and just simply tell something that’s not true? What do you do then? Got to live it out. Exercise. Diet and exercise. And at Fellowship, we have to have a healthy diet, but also we’re going to challenge you to exercise.
Whenever you come to the table, remember, the dude with the food. You serve the food in a creative and compelling way, if you’re doing things God’s way. This chair, the chair is far way from God. Boom, we receive Christ, what do we do? Chair two. We go through this chair, because to get to it, you got to go through it, through this chair. Then we go through our spiritual development classes, the table talk, the growth track. We go to chair three and chair three, a third of us should be in chair three. That’s the mature. That’s those of us who do three things.
Number one, we share our story. We share our story. Do you have a story? If you don’t have a story, you’re not a follower or Christ. What do you mean a story? Well a before I became a believer, here’s how I became a believer and now here’s what’s happening in my life, because I’m a follower of Christ. You’ve got to have a story. So you’ve got to share.
When you concentrate on chair one, that makes the mundane miraculous. You’re not just going to the coffee shop anymore. No, you’re looking at that person, going this person, if he died tonight, is going to hell. This young lady, if she continues that toxic habit, abusing pills or whatever, she is going to miss God’s best for her life. If that situation, that family continues down the road they’re going, they’re not going to make it. They’re going to end up in the deep weeds. Everything matters when you concentrate on chair one.
And only chair three people can concentrate on chair one. Thank you. Thank you for concentrating on chair one, because when you concentrate on chair one, you pray differently. You read the Bible differently. You preach differently. You worship differently. You do every single thing differently. You walk around your neighborhood differently. You don’t just see someone like who’s that idiot. You don’t see someone and go, “How about this person?” you know you’ve never locked eyes with someone who does not matter to God, if you’re concentrating on chair one. So share a story.
Number two, serve. Serve, get outside of yourself. One of the signs of maturity, physically, is woo it’s not about me anymore. And I told you, when I became a parent I was involved in the process of reproduction. Reproduction. That’s right. Intimacy between that beautiful girl I saw at 14. Of course, we got married at 21. Then after that, intimacy. That produced children. Intimacy between a bride and a groom. Intimacy.
One of the problems with the worship movement; listen to me very carefully; you know what I’m talking about, the worship movement. I love the worship movement. We’re a part of the worship movement. The worship movement is awesome. A glaring weakness of the worship movement is worship should be intimacy between the bride, the church, and the bridegroom, Jesus. When you have intimacy between the bride and the groom the result is reproduction. I have one question to ask all these worshiping churches. Where are the babies? Where are the toddlers? Where are they? I don’t know.
But as I look and I examine and question, many times I’m saddened, because it seems as though we’re just swapping sheeple from one place to another place, from another place to another place.
So we have to have a story to share. We have to share that story. Isn’t it awesome that we have a church where we can invite anyone and they’ll understand what’s going on.
I have complete and total confidence whoever I invite to Fellowship Church will understand what the deal is. Total confidence. At some other churches I’ve been a part of, no. No, did not have the confidence. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I hope she doesn’t sing. Oh my gosh, I hope he doesn’t say that again and again and again. Oh my gosh, I hope they don’t use the language of Zion, the Christianese, that no one else understands but those who have a seminary degree. I hope everybody’s one pitch. I hope everything is explained where they can …”
We don’t have a church like that. Is that awesome? Absolutely amazing. So in chair three you got people who share. You got people who serve, who use their unique gifts within the context of this Biblically functioning community, to push the ball downfield. And also you have [people who sow,] people who pay the freight. 20% of the people pay for everything. I’ll say it again. I know it’s shocking. 20% of the people pay for everything. It’s been that way for, wow, 27 years. And I used to get all upset at the 80% who were misers. “Oh man, you need to start paying for the meal. I’m sick and tired of;” and I say this now; “I’m sick and tired of paying for everybody’s meal and I’m always stuck with the check, because I am. But most of you aren’t; you’re eating free.”
Again, if you walk a check, you will get arrested. A lot of you would be behind bars, spiritually. You’d be behind bars, because you’re robbing God. Again, it’s just between you and God. I can’t make you do this. But financial generosity is the thing and it is helping the only thing that’ll ever last forever. You’re investing your money in stuff that’ll never last. Hospital, it’s not going to last. School, it’s not going to last. Yeah, but they’re going to put my name in lights or maybe I get a brick. It’s not going to last. Oh, how about the United Way? It’s not going to last. How about Salvation Army? It’s not going to last. What lasts? Trust fund. Oh, that’s not going to last. What? A church. A church. The church.
Jesus said something. This is really scary. I want to tell you this story. This is really scary. I read this for the first time in a unique way, this week. I was praying, thinking, looking about the table and thinking about feasts and things. Jesus was having dinner at a table with this major Pharisee guy, this major player, religiously, politically, whatever. And they were trying to trap Jesus. And you know, you always have that guy. You know, that guy that blurts out moronic things. Have you ever been around someone like that?
One time I went to a golf tournament. I’ll never forget it. PGA Tour event. I had never been before. It was in Houston and I’m walking and around and this guy tees off, whish. So here this guy is, this golfer, walking from the tee box down the 18th green and some idiot goes, “See ya in Dallas, Justin!” Beause Dallas was the next stop. Yelled it like that. I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, what an idiot.” Do you know people like that? They just blurt out stuff.
We used to have a lady, back in the day, who would answer my rhetorical questions. “No.” She was a staff member. “What?” Finally I said, “Lynn, listen. Thank you for your enthusiasm, but don’t answer the rhetorical question, please.”
But don’t be that guy or that girl that blurts out. Well, this guy blurted out, “Hey, I’m going to live Jesus in heaven, eating the bread of life forever.” And Jesus looked at him, he’s like “Okay, interesting.”
So he tells this story, in Luke 14. And here’s the story. The first part of the story is the invitation. I’m going to give you the Cliff’s Notes. The invitation. Basically, there was this master, this rich guy and he sent out some invitations, texted all of these power brokers. This is cool. Back in the day, you know the R.S.V.P. thing, that was happening, but a rich person would send his servants to the people that he personally invited and they would say, “Hey, the food is ready now; it’s prepared and is on, so come with me.”
That’s how it worked. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? So they got a text and a personal contact. I like that. Jesus said there was this guy, very rich, had this feast. It was unbelievable. I’m talking about a barbecue that was just on epic proportions, lamb, steak and fajitas and everything they served back in the Middle East. So it was on. The table was set. The preparation, the presentation was gorgeous.
So the servants go out and they begin to say, “Okay, it’s time to eat.” The dinner bell is ringing. One guy said, “Uh,”, he made an excuse, he goes, “I’m sorry, I’m involved in a real estate deal.” This is Luke 14. “I can’t.” Hmm, real estate deal? The servant didn’t say this, but the sun is setting and you’ve got to look at some more land? Of course, the guy was lying. Okay.
Another guy. “Hey, uh, food is on. These fajitas are going to be unbelievable. We’re even going to serve some sushi, from the Sea of Galilee.” This guys goes, “No, no, no I mean I know I said it, but I can’t, because I got to buy some cattle.” You test drive a car, right? Well back in the day you test drive some cattle. It was dark, dark:30. Another lie.
And he talked to another guy. The servant says, “Oh, yeah, we invited you too.” He was like, “No, I’m going to got get married in a little while”, not like that day, but like weeks, “I can’t do it.”
Excuses. Excuses. Excuses, excuses, excuses to the invitation. And I looked this word up. I don’t have time to unpack it all, but Luke 14:18 it says that the people made excuses. This phrase, make excuses, and I’ll try to pronounce this in the Greek, is paraiteisthai. It means to reject, but it is in the present tense, meaning that this was a habitual response from all of the people who were being invited.
Now, do you know anybody like that? “Hey, we’d love to have you come to Fellowship.” “I’ll be there.” And the time comes, “No.” “Oh, I’ll be there.” Time comes, “Ah, I can’t do it.” “I’ll be there.” “Got to look at real estate.” “I’ll be there.” “Got to buy some cattle man, for my ranch.” “Hey.” “No, no, I’m getting married this August.” Excuses.
Well Jesus said the master was livid. He went on tilt, he was so upset. And check out what he said, in Luke 14:23-24. Let’s read this together. One, two, three. “Then the master told his servant, “‘Go out to the roads and the country lanes “‘and compel them to come in, so that my house will be'”, what, “‘full. “‘I tell you'”, uh-oh, wait a minute. This is not going to be on a coffee mug, here. This ain’t going to be on a t-shirt, here. This is not going to be like a New York Times best-selling Christian book, is it? “‘I tell you, not one of those who were invited “‘will taste my banquet.'”
Woo, hoo, hoo, hoo. Man, I don’t think Jesus had comfort on his mind when he said that, do you? I don’t think he had La-Z-Boy living on his mind when he said that, do you?
Well that’s an encouraging word. Everybody is not going to accept our invitation. That’s okay. Doesn’t stop us. What do we do? We get up. Because of that, we go out into the highways and byways. We go out and invite everyone and anyone to come in.
And here’s what I love about it. Notice the people that were invited, you can read, are the downtrodden, the destitute. They had nothing to give and the food was there. It was done.
That, my friends, is the gospel. We have nothing to give Jesus. Even if we’re doing real estate deals and buying and selling cattle or even if we’re getting married in a couple of months, we have nothing except to come to the table. The work has been done, the price has been paid. Jesus did it for you sins and mine and we have an opportunity to eat the bread of life. We have an opportunity, don’t we, to move from one chair to another to another to another. We have an opportunity to go through these stages and to discover who God wants us to be. And I want you to pray about that.
If you’re in chair one just simply say, “God I don’t even know if you’re real, but if you are speak to my heart right now, reveal yourself to me.” He already has through this incredible service. Maybe you don’t have faith. Well ask God for the faith to make this decision. He’s the one that’s given us everything.
Maybe you’re in chair two and you’re a brand new believer. Maybe you have a pacifier in your mouth, that’s cool. Maybe you’re going “Hey, Lisa you haven’t drank all your iced tea” or maybe you’re running around naked. Or maybe you find yourself, you know what, I’m just going to be in the comfortable chair, because the relational cost, the time cost, the financial cost is just too much, I just want that comfort. Ask God to give you the ability to move on to maturity.
And if you’re in this chair (chair three), you continue to take it to the next level as we discover the greatness that he has for us.
The table. The table. The table. The church is the table. Let’s pray.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]