THE RECOVERY CHANNEL SERMON SERIES
HOW TO FIND RESTORATION
AUGUST 13, 1995
I tell you, seeing all this baggage up here reminds me of my recent family vacation. Prior to leaving Lisa and I got into a very interesting discussion about all the baggage we were going to take. We have four children, an eight year old, a three years old and one-year-old twins. You can imagine all the humidifiers, high-chairs, cribs, tons and tons of diapers that we need to take for an outing like a vacation. And I said to Lisa in a very direct way, “Lisa, there is no way we can get all of this in one car. We are going to have to take two cars as we travel to San Antonio and Houston on our break.” And she said in a very sweet voice, “Honey, we can make it in one car and I can tell you how we are going to do that in two words.” I said, “What are those two words?” And she said, “Luggage carriers.” I said, “You mean those Clark Griswold-type contraptions that fit on top of the car and you jam all our your suitcases in there?” And she said, “Yes, in fact Western Auto is having a special on luggage carriers.”
So the next morning yours truly was down at the Western Auto picking up two jumbo, gargantuan luggage carriers. I climbed on top of our suburban in the boiling heat of the Metroplex and I loaded all of our baggage into them. Believe it or not, we got everything packed on top and all human beings into our suburban. We didn’t put any children into the luggage carriers, but we did fit all the luggage up there. So we leave. At the first hotel we check into in San Antonio we called a bellman over to help us with the luggage. He said, “Folks, I want to tell you something. I have been working here at this hotel for eight years and this is the most luggage I have ever seen in all that time. We stayed there and then went on to Houston. It eventually came time to return to the Metroplex. We were excited to get back home. We were getting LeeBeth ready to start school. I had everything packed. The luggage carriers were secure. We made the long drive home, turn into our neighborhood and then wheel into the driveway. I instinctively push the garage door opener. The garage door opens and for a nanosecond, I know it is hard for you to believe, I forgot about the giant, jumbo luggage carriers on top of the car. I mash the gas pedal to kind of cruise into the garage safe and sound when suddenly I hear an enormous crash. I see boards flying. We had torn off the top portion of our garage due to the Western Auto, jumbo luggage carriers. I put the car into reverse and assess the damage. There was some damage to the garage but the car was OK. I climbed on top of the suburban, unfastened the luggage carriers and took the bags out piece by piece and carried them into the house. Then I was able to park the suburban safe and sound in the garage. Wow.
Many of us today are tearing our lives apart, we are tearing our relationships apart because we have never dealt with the baggage in the luggage carriers strapped to the backs of our lives. We have tried to excuse it, we have tried to explain it away, we tried to forget about it, yet it is still there and it is still tripping us up. It is still knocking the wood off of different areas of our lives. In this brand new series called The Recovery Channel I am going to promise you something. I am going to promise you, inspired by the word of God, we are going to look into the luggage carriers of our lives, take the bags out, piece by piece, open them up, identify the contents and do what should be done with the contents so we can be free to be the kind of Christ-followers that God wants us to become.
On this stage you see various styles of baggage and each has a different name on, representing different issues and problems that we deal with. Some of us have problems that are not illustrated up here. But if you see something kind of in your problem zone, focus on that piece of luggage. If you stay with us here for the next month, we are going to give you a step by step scriptural process on how to deal with the baggage. This process is going to get a little sticky, it is going to be thought provoking, it is going to be a little bit different. We have never done a series like this in the history of the Fellowship of Las Colinas. But, we felt led by the Lord to do this because it is our desire to have mature, fully developed Christ-followers. And for us to accomplish this, we have got to deal with the baggage.
The foundational text for this series is found in Isaiah 57:18. I like to personalize this verse and I want you to personalize it also. “I have seen how Ed has acted, but I will heal Ed, I will lead Ed and help Ed, I will comfort Ed when he mourns, I will offer peace to Ed both near and far.” (Paraphrased) A lot of us are dealing with a number of issues these days and the exciting news about that is that the steps of recovery are the same. If you are dealing with the habit of lying, of not eating enough, gambling, drug addiction, whatever the issue, whatever the baggage that you bring to the Lord, that you put on the table today, the steps to recovery are the same. Today’s message is going to be a unique one. I am going to do the first part over the next twelve minutes, then I am going to stop and we are going to have a drama. The drama is going to illustrate the futility of men and women trying to control their lives. Then after the drama I will come back for Part II and step two of this exciting series.
Well let’s jump right in. Step one on the recovery channel is, admit that you are powerless to change your problem. We have to admit that we are powerless to change our problems. Some of you are saying, this kind of sounds like the twelve step process. The powerless stuff. You are exactly right. The twelve step process was invented by two alcoholics and a couple of Christians in 1935. The basic twelve steps are from the word of God. We are going to condense these steps and some of them will sound familiar to you. This first step is saying, “God, I admit to You that I am powerless to change my problem.” That is a big step. Most of us kind of skip over that one and go to the next one. Have you ever admitted that you are powerless to change your problem? We all have problems and our problems center around the first Roman numeral on your outline. The root of all of our problems can be summarized in a brief phrase, our sin nature. Our sin nature. Or to put it in modern day terms, we want to be the boss. I call it the Bruce Springsteen disease. We want to forge our own future, carve our own path. We want to be autonomous, independent. We want to kick God out of the capital of our lives and say I know what is best for me. In other words, we want to play God. That is pretty radical, isn’t it? Yet you do it and I do it. Even Adam and Eve did it. You can trace the roots of rebellion all the way back to the soils of the Garden of Eden. God said, “Adam and Eve, all you have got to think about is worshiping Me and doing a bunch of yard work. That’s it. Adam and Eve, I am going to plant a tree right here and don’t touch this tree. Don’t touch the fruit of this tree.” A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted. Adam and Eve heard the voice of the evil one, you’ll see it there in the first scripture verse. The evil one said, “Pssst, Adam, Eve, the reason God is telling you not to touch the fruit is, if you touch it you will be like God. You can control paradise.” And they thought, wow. And they ate it and from that moment on, we have been struggling with these issues of control, of trying to be boss. We try to control our image. Ever done any image control?
Maybe I will be in a restaurant with my wife and as we walk in I will see some church members, “Hi, how are you doing? Oh yeah, nice to see you all again. Great? Really, you have been a member of our church for two years? Excellent. OK. Yeah, we eat here often. Thank you very much.” And we sit down. And over the course of the meal, let’s say Lisa and I get into an intense discussion over an issue. Now and then, what I have tried to do is, I have tried to act like when we are arguing that everything was cool, that we are not arguing at all, because I don’t want to put myself in a bad light before church member. Image control. Sound familiar? Then we want to control our problems. People say, “How are you doing?” And we say, “Oh, I’m doing great, man, just great.” Down deep, though, we are dying. We are kind of like the shirt I heard about the other day. It shows a picture of a dead cow. And underneath the cow is saying, “Really, I’m fine.”
We also try to control out pain. God uses pain as an alarm to help us change and oftentimes He will let a crisis or catastrophe occur to get you or I to change. And the sad thing is, it takes that until we really deal with our baggage. I have only bought one thing in my life from the Home Shopping Network. I bought a triathlon watch. The watch was delivered to my house and I could not get the alarm thing to stop going off at odd times, I couldn’t figure it out. So after a couple of nights of being alarmed out of our sleep, I would take this watch, put it in one of my Nike tennis shoes, size 12, put three athletic socks in the Nike tennis shoes, put four towels over it. Still I could hear the beep of the alarm. Finally I just took it and threw it away. We try to cover pain, we try to camouflage pain. We drink to deaden it, smoke to deaden it, snort to deaden it, eat to deaden it. We get angry, we criticize others. We are in control, you see. Could that be you, could that be me? The root of our problem, we want to control.
See the phrase, the result of my problem, on your outline? The result of my problem. This is going to be scary here. When I try to run the show, I join the 4F club.
The first F is fear. If I try to run the show, I am going to be a person who faces fear. The root of my problem is my sin nature. And as I get into these problems, I will join the 4F club. Fear. There is our man Adam. When Adam discovered he had messed up, when he still had the pulp of the orange dribbling off of his lips, Adam hid. He was afraid. We deal with fear. Are you fearful today? People might find out who I really am, I have got to put the mask on.
The number two F is frustration. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:21 & 23, “I am at war with my mind…..sometimes sin wins the fight.” Paul said this. In Psalm 32:3, “My dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration.” Are you frustrated today? Wow. I think back on my life when I have tried to run a certain area, I get fearful. It is tough being a little demigod, trying to sovereignly rule over a universe called you, isn’t it? Frustrating.
Also, the third F, fatigue. It will flat wear you out. It will rule your world. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day. I think we can find illustrations for that here in this Texas heat, can’t we.
Until finally, I admitted all of my sins, all of my baggage of rebellion to You and stopped trying to hid them. We try to hid our sins and cover our baggage, jumping from fun fix to fun fix to fun fix. And it doesn’t work. It wears us out because we are not designed to run the show and you will see this beautifully portrayed in our drama in a couple of minutes. Anybody frustrated today?
The fourth F is the old failure F. We have got fear, frustration, fatigue and failure. Proverbs 28:13, “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them.” That means to articulate. “God, I have messed up.” And to many of us here there is a dangerous four letter word that we are afraid to admit,
H E L P.
Yesterday I did something that I have only done one other time in my life, I attempted to water ski. My family and I went out with some friends and I was riding in the back of the boat when my friend say he would like to see me water ski. He had been with me during my first attempt, and encouraged me to try again. Well you know, I am kind of this macho male and I don’t want to do something that I can’t do well. I jump in the water, it is cold. I try to remember what I was supposed to do, I refused to ask him because I believe I can do it with no help. We start off and I fall and fall again. Finally the boat comes around after about the fifth fall in a row and I say, “I need some help. What am I doing wrong here? Help.” I think so many of us are in that situation. And you are saying to yourself, well I’ll put it off until next week or next year. I can control it. I can do it. If you could control it, if you could do it, why haven’t you done it? Say help. Confess your sins. Say God here is the baggage, and give them up. Then God will show mercy to you.
The root of my problem is my sin nature. The result, the 4F club. The remedy, admit that you are powerless, and listen to me, watch this, to change the past. Admit you are powerless to change the past. As God looks at the vehicles of our lives, many of us have a huge rearview mirror and a small, little windshield, and we spend all of our time looking into the rearview mirror, back in the past. “That girl never called me back.” “My parents really hurt me.” And a rearview mirror is important. We need to learn from the past. It gives us perspective. But, if you have a giant rearview mirror and a tiny little windshield, you can’t enjoy the present, you can’t get on with your life. The Apostle Paul said in a classic scripture verse, “I forget what lies behind, I reach forward to what is ahead.” I enjoy the moment. In this series, the scripture is going to reduce the size of our rearview mirrors and expand the windshield. I am powerless to change the past.
I am powerless to control others. Don’t we love to control other people? We love to. I remember the great Jim Henson, and I have watched Sesame Street for years and years and years due to our large family. Jim was a master with the Count, Big Bird, Ernie and Burt. And he controlled these puppets with strings and wires and things and they looked real. Even for me, I would say, hey this Count guy is a nice fellow. I think the Cookie Monster really likes chocolate chip cookies. It was believable. Henson, though, was controlling everything. I try to control others sometimes. And you do to. And it is frustrating. I am powerless, you are powerless to do that. We have got to worry about who we are before God. Some of you, figuratively speaking, need to take a giant pair of sheers and clip the strings. I am powerless to control other people.
I am powerless to cope with my habit. I can’t do it alone. I am powerless. Have you admitted that really? James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but gives grace (amazing grace) to the humble.” Recently I have been traveling a lot and one thing never ceases to amaze me. The plane is packed and a least one traveler is trying to carry on about four bags. I watch while he whacks every single person in the head with these bags. It is like a bunch of dominos. And I am waiting for just one guy to turn around and nail him. Isn’t that kind of stupid for people to do that? It is just dumb. All they have to do just say, “Hey, would you check these please?”
As God looks at your life and my life, He sees all these bags on us. “OK God, I am ready to board Your flight.” And God accepts us but He says, “Hey, stop before you board my flight, and I’ll take care of the bags, you can’t deal with them.” Why don’t we admit that? Why don’t we admit that right now.
When we try to run our lives it is like a bunch of mannequins thinking they can run a department store. We have got to realize that God is the King of the Jungle, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Step one. I have to admit that I am powerless to change my problem. Step two. I have to believe that Jesus Christ has the power to heal me of my condition, of my shortcomings, of my problem, of my habit. I believe that Jesus Christ has the power to do it.
It is interesting. In the classic twelve step program, step two talks about a higher power, and a lot of Christians are uncomfortable because it says a higher power and not Jesus Christ. Let me tell you why the alcoholics who founded this twelve step program used the words higher power. It is because the church had rejected them because of their problems with alcoholism. And they said alcoholics will not join a twelve step program if you say Jesus Christ because most of them have been rejected by the church due to their habit.
If you have turned outside of yourself to a higher power, if you are seeking, we say at this church, great. We say at this church, we want to have the attitude that the Apostle Paul had in Acts 17. Paul came to Athens, he went to a place called Morris Hill. A bunch of people, philosophers, armchair theologians, had a view of a higher power and Paul said in Acts 17, it is good that you guys have a concept of a higher power, but you have an underdeveloped picture of who God is. If you will listen to me, I will clarify the picture, I will spell it out, because the true God is not some humanistic, man-made god, he is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the God who sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all of your sins and to rise again. And they saw a picture that was developed by the Apostle Paul. And that is precisely the role of our church. If you have turned to a high power, great. But we are going to fill in who the higher power is, it is Jesus Christ. Because if you trusted anything else, some New Age philosophy or some other religion, it is not going to come through for you. They are going to let you down. Believe that Jesus Christ has the power to heal and to change you.
How do I do that? Number one on the second side of your outline, God knows about my problem. When I comprehend God’s character, I realize that he knows about my problem. Nike made millions of dollars with that crazy commercial with Bo Jackson saying, “Bo knows.” Bo knows baseball. Bo knows football. We all laughed and bought more and more Nike products. I think we ought to print a shirt up that says, “God Knows It All.” He is omniscient. God knows about my problem. You say, well no one really know the pain I felt after I lost my father or when my mate turned and left. No one knows how I deal with this problem of pornography or dope. No one knows what I am struggling with. God knows. The Bible says in Psalm 56:8, David speaking, “You know how troubled I am, You have kept a record of my tears.” Is that powerful, or what? Tears in a bottle. Ed Young’s name on a bottle containing all the tears I have shed in my life, God has counted them and knows about every one. I love Psalm 31:7, “You have seen the crisis in my soul.” You can’t hide anything from God. There is nothing on the sly. He sees it all.
About three months ago I was leaving the hugh airport of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. And before I left Tegucigalpa, Honduras I had to put my bags on the counter and one of the officials unzipped my bags and took out everything and examined my stuff. And I know I felt violated. Everything from underwear to deodorant. We have got to let God do the same. We have got to realize that God sees everything, it is like when you put your baggage on one of those scanners before you board a flight. God sees it all, God knows it all. And we can’t trust Him until we know that He knows about our problem.
Number two. God is sympathetic about my problem, no only does He know about my problem, He is sympathetic about it. The Bible says He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic. He is perfectly balanced. Now a lot of times we take our earthly father’s characteristics and move them over to our Heavenly Father. We mess up when we do that. God is sympathetic, He is perfect, He is always there, loving us, forgiving us, helping us. God is sympathetic. For some of you the scales have come off your eyes. You mean God knows and He is sympathetic about my problems? Whoa.
Number three. God can change my problem. And the longer we put off change, the longer we miss opportunities to serve Him. I like what is says in Ephesians 1:19-20. “I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great His power is to help those who believe in Him.” And that word, believe, is not just an intellectual assent, it is I have faith in, I put my weight on, I trust You. Because the Bible says, the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to all of us. God did not have a power shortage or a power failure. It is there. He can do it. So comprehend God’s character.
Next, comply with God’s offer. He is offering His help. He is offering guidance. Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who is at work in you giving you the will and the power to achieve His purpose.” Circle the words will and power. We can’t do it under our own willpower, God will give us the will and the power to do it. And finally, the last verse on your outline, Isaiah 43:2. It talks about how God will be with us no matter what we are going through, even through the deep waters.
Over our vacation, EJ, our three year old, jumped off the diving board with his floaties on. And he was skeptical about doing this and I told him that I would be in the water with him. He said, “Daddy, catch me, be right there at the end of the diving board.” “EJ, I’m going to be with you. It is over your head but jump. Do it.” And I watched him muster up enough courage to walk to the end of the board, curl his toes over the board, close his eyes and cover his face. When he jumped, I let him sink a little bit but I had him right there in the water. I was not going to let go, because he is my child.
No matter what we are going through we are going to have to say, “God, by faith I jump off.” God is going to catch us, He is going to be with us in this process of recovery. Don’t skip to step four, five or six. That is on down the road. You have got to deal with it Biblically and know who God is and then you will know what the greatest channel in all the world is, no more channel surfing. It is the Recovery Channel, straight from God’s word.