SIGNS OF THE TIMES SERMON SERIES
“GET REAL” – LIVING A LIFE OF AUTHENTICITY
FEBRUARY 4, 1996
The song you are about to hear summarizes what we are going to be talking about over the next nine weeks. (Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…) Just like the song said, signs are everywhere. We see thousands of them daily. You saw dozens of them as you pulled into the parking lot. Signs are interesting. We see them on bumpers, billboards, buses, televisions and T-shirts. Signs warn us. Signs give us directions. Signs give us information. Signs are powerful. In fact, they reflect the core values of our culture. And if you ever want to put your finger on the pulse of what human beings are thinking, just read the signs of the times.
What thoughts are conjured up in your mind when you see Troy Aikman on a television commercial advertising Logo Athletics, looking smugly into the camera and saying, “Get Real”? What do you think about? I think about a brilliant marketing strategy. I think about the fact that Logo Athletics knows that if they use Troy Aikman as a spokesman, kids and grownup kids will want to wear Logo Athletics. They say it is the authentic garb of the NFL. Nothing fake. Nothing phony. Wear the real deal. Thus, get real.
If you think about it, our society is preoccupied with getting real. In the area of food and diet, scores of people are saying that you have got to get real. Whole Food Markets, organically grown vegetables, restaurants, all focus on natural fruits and vegetables. No additives, no preservatives we say. Let’s get real with our diet. We also want to get real with our clothing. Everyone is worried about whether what they are wearing is 100% cotton, or 100% wool, or 100% linen. Stores like the Gap, Banana Republic and Ole Navy are skyrocketing, making millions and millions of dollars. We also want to get real with our music. The popular sound these days is unplugged sound, groups like Green Day, Hootie and the Blow Fish have this acoustical guitar driven music. They don’t like the synthesizers or the electronic sounds so much anymore. They want to get real.
Despite all of our efforts to get real, are we really real in the things that matter? Are we? What if Jesus Christ went out with you to brunch right after this service, say to Chili’s. Let’s say He sat down with you and began a discussion. What would He say? I think that He would say something like this. “You know, it is great you are wearing a 100% wool sweater. It is great you are listening to acoustical guitar music. It is great you are eating vegetables on the lite menu, but are you real in the things that matter?” You see Jesus said “get real” long before some logo athletic marketing executive coined the phrase. I think that He might say to you and me, “Get real in the most important areas. Get real with yourself.” Are you real with yourself?
That is a question I asked myself this week. For the last five years I have owned a mobile phone. Oftentimes, when I am talking on the phone, I will pick up some crosstalk, conversations that people are having on other mobil or cordless phones. Most of the talk is just a bunch of junk, nonsense. But, now and then, you can pick up on crosstalk that is really something else. I mean you hear some real info, people closing major deals. I heard two girls one day talking about a guy who was so good looking. Now and then, just to play a joke on the people, I will join in on the conversation. “Someone is listening to us. Who is that voice? Where did it come from?”
What if, just for illustrative purposes, we could monitor all the crosstalk that is going on right now in this service. What do you think we would hear? You know what I am talking about, don’t you? Those private conversations that we all have with ourselves. No one hears them, but us. A homemaker might be saying something like this. “Boy, I sure am glad the snow is melting and I sure am glad the kids will be in school tomorrow at 8:30 am.” Or maybe a single girl is saying to herself, “I wonder who that guy is on the tenth row in the red sweater. Boy, I sure would like to meet him. He is a good looking guy. Maybe he will get some coffee after the service and I can speak to him.” Maybe others are thinking to themselves, “This is kind of odd, a church in an Arts Center. Where is the organ? Why doesn’t that guy have a robe on?” Or maybe some of the regulars here are saying, “You mean we are going to talk nine weeks about different signs? Wow. This is going to be a long series.”
Most of the conversations we have with ourselves are not important. However, some are extremely important. Some can change the very trajectory of our lives. Maybe there is someone here having a conversation like this. “I’m not as sharp or as good looking or as close to God as most of these people here. I don’t really fit in here. I don’t really matter that much.” Contrast that conversation another maybe going on in the same row. “Even though I am in the midst of hundreds of people here, I know that I am important. I know I am one of a kind. I know that I was bought with a price. I know that I have been forgiven. I can’t wait, God, to express to You how much I love You.” You see the importance of this dialogue, you see the importance of our thoughts. One conversation leaves the person ending up in a pile, the other allows the person to praise and express love to God. Our thoughts.
The book of Proverbs tells us this about our thoughts. Proverbs 23:7. “As he thinks within himself, so is he.” It is amazing to say, but a lot of us trash talk to ourselves. We talk ourselves down. We abuse ourselves. Many of us have been believing lies and half-truths and unrealistic statements for years and years and years. Because we say these things over and over, we believe them and then we act on those beliefs. Question. What conversations do you monitor and what conversations do you disregard? Any time the subject of self-esteem comes up, you had better listen. You had better strain your ears. When you talk about who you are, that is important.
Maybe tomorrow morning a man will walk into an office building, into an elevator, punch the seventh floor button and on the way up say, “Oh, no, I’ve got a presentation to make. It is important. I am so nervous. I stutter. It is impossible to me to really communicate. Why do they have me doing this?” A self-defeating conversation. Ten minutes later another person will walk into the office building, into the elevator, push the fourteenth floor button and say to himself, “I’m nervous. I am kind of shaking right now. God, I trust You. I give my abilities to You, my gifts to You. You have never failed me yet. You are with me, Lord. Here I go.” Again, do you see the importance of our thoughts, of our self-dialogue? Any time the subject of self-esteem comes up, listen. That is how you get real with yourself. Also, when the subject of your abilities and talents come up, you had better listen. How do you listen, though? First, interrupt yourself and call yourself a liar. When you hear some of the lies, say wait a minute, that was a lie. And also understand the fact of where the lies are generated. The evil one, Satan, is called the father of lies. He has been lying forever and one of the main areas he does this in is the area of self-esteem, gifts and abilities. He doesn’t want you or me to realize who we are in Christ. Secondly, replace the lies with the truth. Replace all those lies with the truth. After you call yourself a liar, don’t just admit that but replace the lie with truth. What are some common lies that you might say to yourself? Here is one. I could never do that. Have you ever said that before. I could never stop overeating. I could never quit smoking. I could never stand up and talk before that group. I could never….. Those are lies. Call them lies, throw them out and replace them with truth. For example, try Psalm 139:14 when you say there is no way I could ever do that. “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Another lie we say to ourselves goes like this. That would be the worst. That would be the worst if I showed up in pants and everyone else had a dress on, that would be the worst. That would be the worst, if I struck out in front of my buddies. Those are lies. Replace that lie with the truth. Maybe I Thessalonians 2:4. “We are not trying to please men, but God.” Another popular lie goes like this. I need that. I need that new house. I need that new suit. I need that new dress. I need it. Do you really? Replace that lie with the truth. Philippians 4:19. “My God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Here is a quick homework assignment. Go home, take out a piece of paper and list both your needs and your wants in separate columns and you will be amazed at how often they are confused with each other. God meets your needs. He meets your needs, not your greeds.
Another popular lie that many of you will tell yourself after this service, after you have worshipped God, after you have seen this drama is this. Wow, God can really use me, I can make a difference. I can be real with myself. Then you will say this lie. But I am kidding myself because there is no way God will ever forgive me for what I have done. There is no way God will ever forgive me for what happened in high school or college or last month or last week. There is no way. That is a lie. Talk about a comforting verse that will warm your spirit on a frigid morning, Psalm 103:12. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Get real with yourself.
Another thing Christ might say to us over a meal at Chili’s might be, “Get real with others.” Life is full of relationships and the problems in most of our relationships centers around a little word that begins with “t”, truth. The lack of telling the truth and being honest and open with individuals keeps our marriages, our friendships, our business relationships from ever really soaring and moving on a plane on which God intended us to be relationally. In theory, all of us would say that honesty is the best policy. Yet, when we hit those moments, when we are face to face with that person in our lives who really matters, when we know that we have got to communicate some hard words, some truths, most of us would rather punt than tell the truth. We prefer peacekeeping to truthtelling. Does that sound familiar in your life? It sounds familiar in mine. Instead of telling the truth, we give out conversational candy. The problem is, if you have a relationship built on candy, no real nutrients help the relationship to grow and mature. It is built, instead, on a bunch of empty calories.
Others of us, as opposed to telling the truth, drop clues and hints. You know people like that, don’t you? Maybe a husband says to his wife, “Honey, the guy in the office next to me, at least once a week finds a romantic note from his wife in his briefcase.” Now notice. He did not say, “Will you please write me a romantic note.” He just dropped a hint. Don’t you get tired of living with people who are always giving clues and hints, never telling the truth, just skirting the issue.
Or instead of telling the truth, we do the silent thing. “What’s wrong. Please tell me what is wrong. Something has got to be wrong.” “Nothing. Nothing.” We are avoiding the truth. Or others just talk about peripheral things and never get down to the real deal. We have got to learn how to communicate. We have got to learn how to talk. We have got to learn how to live a life and participate in relationships of integrity. Integrity is a lost term. Here is a powerful verse, one of my favorites. Psalm 7:8. “Judge me, oh Lord, according to the integrity that is within me.” You might want to circle the word integrity. The word integrity comes from the Latin phrase which denotes a whole number, not a fraction. God wants you and me to give our whole selves in relationships. But the problem is, most of us give fractions. Here is a fourth. Here is a tenth. Here is a half. Here is a third. Have you ever met someone and known them for a year or two and realize that you know them no better after that amount of time than you did when you first met them? We are fearful, we are scared to give of ourselves. But there is a principle that can change all that. I call it the 18-15 principle. Matthew 18:15 that is. “If you brother sins against you, go and tell him his faults….” Circle the word tell. Go and tell. “…between you and this person alone.” TELL. And that is the secret of true, Biblical, getting real communication. T stands for talk about the truth. Talk about the truth with the person and make sure the timing is right. Don’t do it when the person is tired. Don’t do it when they are in a bad mood. And when you talk about the truth always affirm your relationship. Don’t just walk up and say, “You are a jerk. You make me sick.” Say something like this. “I value our marriage so much and I want our marriage to move to the next level. I have got to tell you this and it is hard for me to say….” E stands for explain how you feel. “I feel hurt. I feel separated. I feel angry.” Explain how you feel. L stands for love and forgive. Love and forgive, don’t hold any grudges. New week we are going to talk about revenge, something that every single human being deals with. Love and forgive. Accept their apology. Accept where they are. The final L stands for learn from the experience. Have you ever had the same argument, the same problem in a relationship over and over again? I have. You know what my problem is oftentimes? I forget to learn from the experience. When you tell the truth to your brother or your sister, your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your father, your co-worker, use the TELL principle and things will happen. And that sounds good, doesn’t it? We could kind of close the Bible us and say let’s go and leave early. No problem. When you think about communication what is the thing that pops into your mind? Talking. Speaking. But, that is only half of the ordeal. That is only part of it. Rarely do we ever hear anything discussed on the second element of communication. You have got to learn how to listen.
We go back to Matthew 18:15, “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone, if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” This implies that listening is a learned process. You don’t just show up and say you are a great listener. If we are going to be real with others we have got to learn how to speak the truth and how to hear the truth. There is a major difference between just hearing and listening. How do you listen? Some of us listen like the wanderer. You are talking to someone but you only hear the first couple of statements before your mind begins to orbit Pluto. You hear words but have no clue what the person is saying. Suddenly there is a lull in the conversation and you have to admit that you were distracted. Some people listen like the interrupter. When someone is talking they think what they have to say is much more important, so they just interrupt. The interrupter dominates the conversation. Or maybe you listen like the looker listens. Do you ever talk with someone who makes terrible eye contact? They can’t look you in the eye. Most of them are looking at someone over your shoulder who might be more important. Some listen like the inquirer, trying to hear the dirty laundry. Inquirers, once they hear the gossip, begin to judge quietly. They smile and nod but secretly are judgmental. We have got to learn how to listen in a Biblical way.
There is a book in the Bible that is really a treatise of communication. James. James 1:19. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” You know for the last five years I have had an interesting perspective on listening. I have watched you and observed you and your listening habits. I would say, categorically, we have a church that really listens. But it is amazing to see the different methodologies you use while you listen. Some take notes when they listen. Others pass love notes. Not very many, but a few. Some listen and then elbow the person they are with when they think something applies to the other individual. Some here have a strange way of listening, though. A phenomenon I have observed weekly. You listen with your eyes closed. Amazing. I want to give you some quick hints on listening and on how to improve you skill. First, when someone is speaking to you, make sure you summarize their words by taking mental notes. Jesus said these words in Matthew 13:9. “He who has ears, let him hear.” We have two ears and one mouth. Listen. When someone is talking picture taking a notebook and a pencil and creating an outline. Secondly, empathizes with their feelings. The Bible says in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” When you empathizes with someone’s feelings you can really give answers to their questions. You are not just conversing, you are really engaging the person. How do you empathizes with someone? You say, what would it be like to be in that family, to be in her shoes, to live in his house, to be in their business. What would it really be like to be going through that? Thirdly, you verbalize by giving feedback. This is the most important element of listening. When a person is talking to you and you are summarizing and empathizing, then you verbalize their thoughts in your words and give them feedback. You kind of nutshell what they said. The book of Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding.” If you are not trying to understand what a person is saying, then the Bible says you are a fool. You are out in left field. Get real with yourself. Get real with others. Two important values concerning authenticity.
This past Tuesday my four year old son, EJ, asked me a very profound question. EJ was in his Spiderman pajamas with the Spiderman cape, had on Spiderman shoes and Spiderman underwear. There were Spiderman action figures all around the room. He looked and me and asked, “Daddy, is Spiderman real?” I thought for a second and replied, “EJ, Spiderman is not real, he is pretend.” Then he said, “Daddy, is Jesus real?” I said, “Oh yes, EJ, Jesus is not pretend, He is real.” We could talk all day and night about getting real with yourself and about getting real with others but it is not going to happen until we get real with
Jesus Christ. He is real and He wants to change your life. Maybe today is the day you need to step over the line, open your life up to Him. You can say these words the best you know how. “Jesus, I have been trying to find reality my whole life and I have never really found it. I understand now, to the best of my knowledge, that you are real and I want to see myself with way You see me. I want to treat others the way You want me to treat others. But before I can do that, I have got to know you personally and I ask you, Jesus Christ, to take this human body, to infiltrate my heart, my mind totally and completely.” If you do that, that is the key that begins the process of truly getting real.