Push Me, Pull Me
“On the Fence”
August 21, 2016
By Ed Young
ILLUS: A mom looked at her daughter’s best friend and noticed an Asian tattoo on her back. And the girl said, “Well, yes. It’s brand new. But please don’t tell my parents.” The mom said, “I’m not going to tell your parents. But I’ve got to ask you. What does this Asian symbol mean on your back?” The girl replied, “Honesty.”
Push me, pull me. The back and forth life. It’s so popular these days. We’re convicted about not being convicted. On one hand we want a great marriage, but we’re not really willing to do the hard yards of the date night, of those conversations, of the forgiveness work, of the marriage counseling that needs to take place. Push me, pull me. “I want a great family and great kids who love God and who are obedient.” Yet, you come to church once every six weeks, now and then. You kind of do what you have to do. You don’t really want to do the tough stuff of drawing lines in the sand and dealing with discipline on the family front.
You’re a single parent and you’re say, “Hey,” as you look at your teenage daughter. “Remain pure until you get married.” Yet, you have numerous sexual liaisons in front of your kids, and they see how you live your life.
It’s a life of duplicity. It’s saying one thing and doing another. It’s being double-minded.
“God, I want you to bless my finances. I want just to do that and to be generous.” Yet, you don’t tithe and you don’t bring what is God’s to his House.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? One foot in, one foot out.
ILLUS: I had this idea for this sermon several months ago. I was speaking at a venue and back in the green room there was an NFL all-pro with his girlfriend. And I had met them before, and we talked a little bit. Then they left the green room and I was talking to a gentlemen who knows them and I said, “How are they doing?” He said, “Oh, it’s typical.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, this guy is just riding the fence. One foot in the NFL lifestyle – the weed, the women, the parties; and one foot in the church.” I thought, “I’m going to a series on that, because that is a popular way to live.”
The Bible talks a lot about being double-minded; the dangers of being double-minded. In fact, God would rather you live like hell and follow the devil than have one foot in the church and one foot out. Remember the book of Revelation when we studied that? We talked about the church of Laodicea. They were lukewarm, push me pull me people. One foot in, one foot out. What did God say? “You make me sick. You make me want to throw up. You make me want to vomit.”
I love how our God wants to save us energy and time. I love how our God wants us and demands us and coaches us and cheers us on to live the single-minded life. It’s throughout Scripture. You see, he knows the angst; he knows the stress that’s going to be involved in the double-minded life.
But I’ve got to be honest. I have that struggle and so do you. Push me, pull me. That double-mindedness. One foot in the church, one foot in the world. It’s tough. It’s not easy. This is a very difficult subject to tackle.
If you do decide to live the double-minded life – and I know many of you are. If you do decide to do that, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to have a tendency to fill your life with toxic relationships. I can give you case and point biblically, and also case in point relationally. You will have, as you look in the rearview mirror of your life, a lot of relational wreckage if you say, “I’m going to live the double-minded life.” Moreover, if you live the double-minded life, you’re going to lack energy. You’re going to be worn slap out. Because it’s tough to have one foot in and one foot out.
What’s the mantra these days when someone says, “Hi! How are you doing?” We say, “I’m busy.” Busy, busy, busy…
What are we saying? We’re saying, “I’m double-minded. I’m scurrying around here and there. I’m double-minded.”
Living the single-minded life, and God wants us to do that, clears a lot of that confusion. But being double-minded will mess up your relationships. Being double-minded will wear you out. Being double-minded will keep you from the legacy, from the indelible imprint that God wants you to have in this one and only life.
Life comes at us at warp speed. It seems like just yesterday I was in high school or college. Just yesterday Lisa and I were married. Just yesterday we had our first kid. And now? Marriages and I’m older and my hair has turned white. It’s unbelievable.
So God knows this is going to happen. And we only live, what, if we eat healthy and work out some; if we have decent genetics we’ll live 77-80-85 years. That’s nothing compared to the backstop of eternity. And God says, “Here, I want you to live the single-minded life.”
T.S. How do we live the single-minded life? I want to talk to all of us who struggle with that duplicity, to all of us who struggle with that push me, pull me. The classic text that deals with this is 1 Kings 18, back in the Old Testament. And this is just the epitome of the double-minded life versus the single-minded life.
I do want you to understand one thing about the single-minded life. And I believe everyone here wants to live the single-minded life, and God says it’s the only way to live. Here’s the first thing I want you to understand. The single-minded life will single you out. When I live the single-minded life, I will be singled out.
School is happening now. A lot of people are back in school. Some start school tomorrow. If you say, “I’m going to live the single-minded life,” I don’t care if you’re in 4th grade or the 9th grade or a sophomore in some college. For that matter I don’t care if you’re a businessman or business woman; it doesn’t matter if you’re a homemaker. Whatever you do, if you say, “I’m going to live the single-minded life,” you’re going to be singled out. People will know it. It will snap the heads of those around you.
By God’s grace I’ve lived the single-minded life. Not perfectly. I’m fallen and fallible just like you. However, by God’s grace I’ve lived the single-minded life after I became a believer. I was singled out. I remember it vividly. It started, really, in junior high school. I was singled out in high school. I was singled out in college. I wasn’t always a part of the popular crowd. I didn’t get invited to all of the parties. I didn’t have all the dates. I don’t look back and go, “Wow! I wish I’d lived the double-indeed life. Man I missed something. I missed that cocaine. I missed the weed. I missed the women. I really missed out!” No, I don’t. I’m glad I have lived the single-minded life. I would not be where I am today if I’d lived the double-minded life.
SO I want to talk to young people. Don’t screw your life up! Don’t do the double-minded thing. And parents, we’ve got to lead out in this issue. We’ve got to show our kids that single-minded life Is the way to go. And kids, even if your parents aren’t living it, live it! It’s the only way to live.
Elijah – the e-train – was single-minded. This guy was in a situation that was completely and totally cray-cray. God’s people were supposed to follow Him. And they’d had some really good runs. They’d followed the Lord and seen God do some really amazing things. However, leadership, leadership, leadership.
They had a leader. King Ahab. And King Ahab was double-minded and he made a horrible “I Do” decision. He married a pit viper straight from hell named Jezebel. Don’t ever name your daughter Jezebel, straight from hell. And check this out. She was so influential, a beautiful girl, so strong, poor Ahab was so hen-pecked and dominated, so emasculated Jezebel led God’s people into Baal worship. Idolatry. Are you kidding me? Baal.
What is Baal worship? They were building shrines and building all of these idols. Baal worship is basically the worship of power, possessions, and pleasure. God’s people were like, “Ok. I’ll straddle the fence on this. Yes, Jehovah is God and he’s done amazing things. But I like that Baal worship. I mean when I go to church for Baal worship there are orgies, there are temple prostitutes, materialism, all this stuff. So I’m just going to straddle the fence. I’m just going to sit the fence. This is the way to live!”
Well Elijah tells Ahab and Jezebel, ‘You know what guys? Because of your rebellion; because of your pathetic leadership, it’s not going to rain for 42 months.”
So they were in a drought. Cattle keeling over. Lakes were dried up. You couldn’t even launch your pontoon at Sneaky Pete’s Marina. It was a bad situation. Sorry, Miami, that was a local joke here on Lake Grapevine. If you don’t know Lake Grapevine you didn’t get that.
Anyway, it was a bad situation. So, we have this epic battle, this meeting when Ahab and Elijah go toe-to-toe.
ILLUS: When I was playing basketball at FSU, and I talk about his a lot because it was very significant in my life, I was the only Christian on our team. Oh, I was singled out! Are you kidding me? Travelling around the nation with a bunch of hellions. My freshman year, they made fun of me, abused me, this and that. Yet, the next year, my sophomore year, something strange happened. I felt the pivot. They began to ask me about situations. They began to talk to me about their problems. One even said, “You know, there’s something different about your life.” Single-mindedness.
So I’m not going to lie to you up here. I’m not going to say it’s the easy life. The Christian life is called, in the Bible, a war, a race, a wrestling match. You see, we’re warriors. We’re not to be double-minded. As I look back on my life, it is worth it.
So that’s going to happen. It’ll happen to you in every slice of life. So you might want to ask yourself, “Who are my friends? And who are my enemies?” You’re known by your friends and your enemies. And when I say enemies I don’t mean people who are starting some negative blog or who are Twitter trolls abusing you. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about people who don’t include you. That’s a good thing.
Elijah meets with Ahab and says, “Hey, Ahab, you’re the problem here. You’re the reason why this drought is taking place.” But here’s what Ahab did. He did what I love to do when I’m confronted. He pointed the finger of blame. He pointed the finger to this person, that person.
That’s what I do. When I’m convicted, let’s just be totally candid here; when the Holy Spirit gets up in your grill, what do you do? “Lord, I’m wrong. I’m a sinner”? No. What do we say? “It’s your fault. It’s my father’s fault. It’s this situation. It’s my boss. It’s my manager. My diapers were put on too tight and my nursery was painted the wrong color. Whatever it is, it’s the pastor’s fault, the principal’s fault!”
We love to blame. That’s what Ahab did. You know what Ahab said? Here’s this guy living in sin, who took the entire nation away into Baal worship because of a wrong “I Do” decision, and he’s blaming the e-train, Elijah, for what’s happening. That is absolutely hilarious, isn’t it?
The Bible says in 1 Kings 18:16, “So Obadiah…”
I want to drill down a little bit on Obadiah. Obadiah was a believer as well. The devil, when you’re living a single=minded life, wants to tell you, “You’re the only one. There’s no other believers around. There’s no other difference makers around. You’re the only one.”
I lived in a dorm that had a lot of people at FSU. I was on full scholarship, we had maid service, food, there was even a full bar at the bottom floor in our athletic dorm. That’s a whole other story. No wonder we got in trouble with the NCAA! Anyway, only three people in the entire dorm went to church, and I was one of those three.
Now I’ve kept up with a number of people that didn’t’ go to church. And I look back in their lives, if they’re still living, and it’s been train wreck after train wreck. Something’s different! See, this single-minded life works. God’s way works! And I’ve yet to meet a person who has said, “You know what? I’m living for the Lord and my life is jacked up.” Please show me that person if you know them. I’ve never met him.
So Elijah, his squad was stout. He had Obadiah. If you read this story more and more there were several thousand people who were believers. Yet, Jezebel was killing believers left and right.
So here’s what he said. I’ll give you the quick Cliff’s notes. Elijah gets up in Ahab’s face and says, “Ok. Let’s just have a challenge. Let’s have a royal rumble. Baal against Jehovah. You and Jezebel’s god against my God. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll go to your home field, Mount Carmel. That’s right. That’s Baal worship’s home field. And we’ll play you guys. I’ll tell you what. You go ahead and be on the receiving team. You build an altar for Baal, then you pray. And you say, ‘Baal, answer by fire.’ If Baal answers by fire, Baal wins. But, if Jehovah God, if the Lord answers by fire at the altar I build, we win.”
And Ahab is like, “I’ll take that deal all night, all the way to the bank.”
So that’s what happened. Single-mindedness singles you out. But notice this. Single-mindedness sends a message. Because when this deal happened, what do you think happened? Ahab sent a message out to the entire nation. I’ve been to Mount Carmel, 17,042 feet high. I’ve been right there numerous times as I’ve traveled to the Middle East. It is an epic spot, a beautiful spot. The acoustics are ridiculous so that’s where the whole thing went down. 1 Kings 18:20, “So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel.” 850 prophets of Baal.
And here’s the deal, write it down. Tweet of the Day. Baal will put you in jail. Baal will incarcerate you. Because see, Baal worship is, in effect, right here. Baal worship is in effect in Miami. Baal worship is in effect in Europe because we have many watching from Europe on our online campus. Baal worship, power, are you kidding me? Possessions, pleasure, oh yeah! Some are like, on this is so barbaric I can’t believe this. I mean, Baal worship, who would be that crazy? Who would be that overt? Just look around. All these prophets of Baal.
And Asherah, was the female counterpart of Baal. There were 850 of these prophets and they wore these gold medallions that would embarrass any rapper, and these medallions reflected the sun because that was part of it, too. This fertility and nature and all of this craziness. So they had this showdown at Baal Field. That was good, yeah! At Baal Field. So they built their alter, the prophets of Baal. Jezebel was right there, giving them Hell. Poor Ahab, “What do you want, honey?” I mean totally dominated, emasculated. All these prophets build the alter and they start freaking out, man. Doing all of this stuff, dancing, praying for fire, cutting themselves. For nine hours they did this. Are you ready for that? And Elijah, he’s just watching them. And this is very interesting. Do you know trash-talking was invented in the Bible? Elijah starts trash-talking to Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal!
All right, before I tell you what he said, because he said some stuff that was pretty graphic. He didn’t curse but he said some stuff. To me it was funny. You might not think so, but let me read 1 Kings 18:21. “Elijah challenged the people.” So here he is at Baal Field, he takes the mike, “People of Israel (echo Israel, Israel, Israel), this is Elijah (Elijah, Elijah),” and he just says this, “’How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him. If it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds.’ Nobody said a word. Nobody made a move!” These are God’s chosen people! Double-mindedness, back and forth, push me, pull me. If you could read the Hebrew, the picture behind this text is so beautiful.
ILLUS: Lisa and I love Mexican food, I love it. Best Mexican food I’ve ever had is right here in Taos, man. I love it. A couple days ago we were out at this little Mexican restaurant and it was cool enough (it was a miracle) where we could eat outside. So we were eating the chips, I was really… I love chips and hot sauce. I was like a shark with my eyes rolling back in my head. And I noticed all of these birds flying around. Birds are smart. They have, I know, little pea brains but I’m telling you this is going to happen. Remember this. When you go to Heaven we’re going to find out that birds are a lot smarter than we thought. I think animals are smarter than we think anyway. That’s a whole ‘nother message. These birds, and I watched it, Lisa and I were just dying laughing, when someone sitting outside would turn their head these birds would swoop down, boom! Steal a chip, they’re gone. And then we watched them hop from ledge to ledge keeping the others away from the chips. One flew straight at me and I happened to look and it veered off and got another chip from another table. These birds, I just loved watching them.
The picture behind this verse is a bird hopping from one perch to another, from one twig to another, never settling, never saying here is who I am. I’m choosing this way, just hopping from here to there to there to here. Huh. How long will you waver? I want to ask you the same thing, between two opinions?
Seriously, how long are you going to sit on the fence? As I look at this text, until we know what the problem is we’ll not be able to solve the problem. And those who are double-minded, look at our culture. What do they do? They just concentrate on the consequences, they never get to the problem, because they don’t know the problem. They don’t, and that’s the double-minded life. You’ll never understand the issue if you live the double-minded life.
So single-mindedness singles you out, #1. #2 – Single-mindedness sends a message. What message are you sending with your life? People are looking at you, they’re looking at me. And also, single-mindedness creates margin. It simplifies our life. Look at the prophets of Hell, of Baal. Worn slap out, nine hours, dancing and cutting themselves and screaming and praying. “Baal, answer us! Baal, answer us!” Worn out. You want to be worn out? Live the double-minded life. Worn out.
ILLUS: About a decade ago I had dinner with a multibillionaire, and during the dinner at his home the butlers and everybody, the whole thing, I just really (because I had known this guy for a while), I really felt led to kind of look at him and say choose this day who you’re going to serve. Stop riding the fence. I just felt to do it. I knew it was a God thing so I started having this conversation with him. Heavily involved in Baal worship, this guy. Super powerful, he began to weep, dropped his head. The guy was in a mess and he began to describe his life. He went through a long time in his life, “power, answer me! Power, I’ve got this position! I’ve been written up in this magazine! These thousands of people work for me! Power, answer me! Answer me!” Silence. “Possessions, money, answer me! Maybe another hundred million will do it. Maybe another yacht will do it. Maybe another house will do it. Answer me! Answer me!” Nothing. “Maybe pleasure is it. Another high-priced call girl, another orgy, another porn star, yeah, that’ll do it! Another conquest! Yeah, sex is the answer, that will do it!”
Let me tell you something big boy, you’re never going to have the power this guy had. Never. You’re never going to have the money, the bank, he had. You’re never going to have the women he had, and his life is totally screwed up. He is a double-minded man. He is a Baal worshipper and Baal can’t answer! What are you doing? You’re trying to get your little-g god to answer big-G God concerns? It’s not working and you know it’s not working!
When are you going to be man enough to stand up and say, “God, you’re God. I’m going to follow you. I’m not going to screw my life up any more. I’m going to be the kind of husband, I’m going to be the kind of father, I’m going to be the kind of businessman, I’m going to be the kind of life change that you desire.” When? When?
Baal doesn’t work! You get the Baal out, you’ll get the hell out! When are we going to do that? So that’s what’s in the cards for you. I mean, there might be one person to make billions, could be here. I doubt it, could be. You might be written up in all these major business magazines, I doubt it. You’re not going to have sex with the most beautiful people in the world, I doubt it. And look where it led him. The guy’s a disaster. Double-minded. See, God wants to save us from that!
So the double-minded life, wow. It’s not going to work. Single-mindedness creates margin, because you know what the E-train did? E-train makes an alter and while he’s making this alter he’s talking trash to the Baalites. You know what he’s telling them? “Hey, where is your god? I think your god is sitting on the toilet.” That’s what it says in the original language. That’s trash talking. He makes an alter. They spend nine hours trying to get fire. Silence. He throws up a little prayer, after he has drenched his alter three times! He throws up a little prayer and what do you think happens? Well, let’s just read it.
I Kings 18:38-39, “Then the fire of the Lord fell.” The god who can’t burn wet wood is no good. The fire fell. And the fire in the Bible represents the power, the purity, and the presence of God. “And burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil.” The god who can’t burn wet wood is no good. “And also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord, he is God, the Lord he is God.’” Oh now… woo! What a life change! What a 180! What repentance! The Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God. Single-mindedness demands a decision.
So #1 – Single-mindedness singles you out. #2 – Single-mindedness sends a message. #3 – Single-mindedness creates margin. #4 – Single-mindedness demands a decision. How long are you going to sit on the fence? How long are you going to straddle the fence? How long are you going to pursue the push me, pull me life?
“Oh man, but Elijah, this guy is the prophet of God. What do I have in common with him?”
James 5:17, “He was a man just like you and me.” He just had that relationship with the supernatural God. Do you want to miss out on miracles? Do you want to miss out on God moving? Live a double-minded life. Oh yeah.
Jesus one day was talking and he said in John 10:9, let’s read it together, 1-2-3, “I am the gate.” Let me stop there. The – definite article. Not like a gate, not like a way, I am the gate. Let’s keep reading, “whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and out and find pasture.” Three things: Jesus is the gate. When we open the doors of our lives and invite Christ in, when he comes in well be saved, we’ll be safe, and we’ll be satisfied.
ILLUS: I was at the grocery store recently, I don’t go all the time but I was there. I watched people walk up to those electronic doors from all different walks of life. <door sound effects> The door never said, “No, sorry, you can’t enter.” If they had faith enough to walk toward it, it would open.
This is the gate. That’s right, this is the gate. Jesus is not going to push me or pull me into the kingdom, but if we enter through this gate we’ll enter through the gates of Heaven. Have you opened the door of your life to Jesus? There’s a single gate, single-mindedness. Have you opened the door of your life to Jesus? He wants to meet you right where you are. The double-mindedness, the chicanery, the duplicity, the push me, pull me, he wants to meet you right where you are. Invite Jesus to come in, because when you receive the sinless sovereign, singular Savior he will save you. You’ll have eternal safety, and you’ll know what satisfaction is all about. Let’s pray.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]