THE RECOVERY CHANNEL SERMON SERIES
HOW TO GAIN CONTROL
AUGUST 20, 1995
Imagine that the man who owned the tallest skyscraper in downtown Dallas invited you, your family members and your closest friends to the observation tower on the top of his structure to check out the beautiful skyline of the metroplex. You were so excited. While you were up there looking at everything around you, Fair Park, Reunion Arena, Texas Stadium, the different freeway systems, this owner had enough class to serve you and your guests some of the best fresh lemonade you ever tasted in your entire life. Suddenly, though, without warning your worst nightmare becomes a reality. You begin to smell smoke. You see the flames and in a nanosecond this building you are standing on has become a towering inferno. The owner of the building panics and he looks at you and your family members and friends and he says, “We are in trouble, we can’t get down from the top of this structure. The staircase leading down from the observation tower has burned up. The elevator system has jammed. I don’t know what we will do. I really don’t.”
I am in a series called The Recovery Channel. Last week we talked about the first aspect of recovery. We said that we all have problems. We all have hurts, habits and hangups that we deal with, from anger to grief, guilt to alcoholism, gambling, you name it, we deal with it. And we all need to recover from something. And we said that we are powerless over our problems. In essence, we turned to each other last week and said, our buildings are on fire.
Let’s jump back to this imaginary scenario for a second. You are standing on top of the observation tower, the flames are engulfing you, smoke is everywhere and out of the corner of your eye you see someone walking around on the skyscraper next to you. The person takes out a little cannon and detonates it. A three inch wide steel cable explodes from it, traverses the distance between the two buildings and wraps around the air conditioning unit on your building. You look over and to your amazement the figure from the other skyscraper jumps onto the cable, does some spins and a little dance step, walks across the cable and waves to you. He runs back to his skyscraper and right beside the cannon he finds a wheelbarrow which he places on the cable and returns to your building. He evades the flames and smoke from your building and pushes the wheelbarrow right in front of you. He sits down, folds his arms and says, “Get in. It is your only way to safety. I want to help you. Get in.”
Last week we said that we are powerless over our problems. We said our buildings are on fire. We also said last week that we believe God has the power to fire a cable from His building to our building and we said that we believe God has the strength to cross that cable with a wheelbarrow and to take us out of our insanity, to remove us from our problem. To change a hurt, a hangup or a habit.
Today, in this session we are talking about step three of the recovery channel. It is the wheelbarrow step. The Bible says that God of this universe has shot a cable from His building to our building and the cable is called the cross and Jesus Christ has pushed the wheelbarrow across the cable. He is standing there gripping the handles, looking you square in the eye and saying, “You matter to me. I love you. You are powerless over your problems. I have the power to take you out of the mess. Get in. Get in. Commit your problem; commit your life to My will, to My purpose. Make that decision. Please do it.” So today, we talk about the good ole wheelbarrow.
Some of us have gotten into the wheelbarrow. Some of us have said to ourselves, “Yes I am powerless, God you are powerful, I commit my life to you and will get into the wheelbarrow. I know I can’t change my life alone and I give it all to You. You push me, You take me out of this mess.” Some of us have definitely done that. Others of us, though, if you are like me, we have said no to Jesus. We have looked at Him square in the eye and we have said, “No, Jesus, I don’t want to get into the wheelbarrow just yet.” And I want to give you a couple of reasons why we say no, why we refuse Christ’s offer to jump into the wheelbarrow and let Him deal with all of our baggage that He wants to deal with.
First, we underestimate our condition. We underestimate our condition. And our condition is critical. We do this by denial, by plain old denial. Jesus crosses the cable, walks up to us with this wheelbarrow and He says, “Get in.” Here is what we say, “What do you mean get in, Jesus? I appreciate You and I believe in You and I love You and all that, but what fire? I don’t smell any smoke.” And while you are saying that your Nike tennis shoes are melting, your eyebrows and hair are being singed. “What fire? What do you mean?” Denial.
This past week someone who is very close to me confronted me in love about a sin in my life. And my first response was this. “What? You’ve got the wrong person. I am not really dealing with that.” And about twenty-four hours later I thought to myself, “You know, Ed, you’re in denial over this. You are dealing with this. This is tripping you up. You had better put it in the wheelbarrow.” The Bible has a word for denial. In II Corinthians 2:2, the word is blindness. Blindness. In II Corinthians 4:4 it says this, “Satan, who is the god of this evil world, has made him blind.” He has made you blind, he has made me blind, unable to see the glorious light of the gospel, or unable to understand the amazing message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is God. We are blind and the evil one blinds us. Yes, Jesus has crossed the cable. Yes, He has asked us to get in the wheelbarrow, yet a lot of us are in denial, we are blind.
Recently I have gotten into a new activity with my kids. Frog hunting. It is not frog gigging, I want to protect the wildlife and all that. There is a little pond by our house and we walk down to the pond at night with a Fischer Price flashlight and there are some behemoth, Goliath-like frogs on the banks. And these frogs are bigger that those Budweiser frogs, huge things. The other night one of them had a goatee, matter of fact. Anyway. We shine the light on the frog and the light blinds the frog, which I knew beforehand but the kids just learned that night. You can walk right up to this big, old bullfrog and he is just frozen there. And if you wanted to, we didn’t do this, you could actually pet the frog. I am like a frog a lot of times. And if you are honest with yourself, so are you. We are blind, we are blind to what is going on around us. We don’t realize there is a fire going on, the smoke is so thick it is about to choke us, we are in denial. In denial.
There is another reason that we don’t understand our condition. It is found in Hosea 4:4. Blame. We deny and we also blame others. Hosea 4:4 says, “Don’t point your finger at someone else and try to pass the blame to him or to her or to your boss or to your spouse, or to your teacher. Jesus wheels the wheelbarrow up to us. We don’t deny the fire any more, we blame others. We point to our friends and family members standing on the structure and say, “It is because of her, it is because of him. If they would get their acts fixed, if they would really change, if they would quit torching my life, then I could be OK Jesus, so I am not going to get into the wheelbarrow because they are messing me around. It is them.” And this blame thing is as old as Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:12. Adam and Eve had sinned before God. God confronts Adam. And here is what Adam said. God, wait a minute. Me? She did it, she is the one who took the grape from your cosmic produce section. I didn’t do it, God. Blame.
Another reason that we don’t understand our condition is plain old-fashioned fear. We are fearful to get into the wheelbarrow. The Bible puts it this way in
Mark 8:36&37, “And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process, for is anything worth more than his soul?” A lot of us are like the man I heard about who fell off a cliff. He was falling and he sees a branch on the way down and he grabs the branch. He looks down, 1,500 feet, and he looks up, 500 feet. He screams out, “Would someone help me? Would someone please help me?” And suddenly the clouds part and the voice of God says this. “Let go of the branch and I will catch you.” This man thought about it for a second and he said, “Is there anyone else who can help?” Now, we laugh at that. Oftentimes, though, God is last resort. We are fearful to fall into His arms. We are fearful to get into His wheelbarrow. We think to ourselves, “I could turn into a religious freak. He could push me somewhere I don’t want to go.” And the evil one comes in and gives us all of these lies, all of these excuses not to deal with lust, not to deal with the gambling problem, not to deal with this co-dependency thing, not to deal with the grief, not to deal with the temper, not to deal with this or that. And we get afraid. It is time that we face our fears. Like someone told my wife and I that she did, we need to just take a step and fall into the arms of the Lord. A close friend of mine told me that his life and his battle over cigarette addiction never, ever worked until he came to the point where he got into the wheelbarrow. So it is there for you. We are just talking about the decision making phase.
Another reason we don’t get into the wheelbarrow is because we are not desperate enough. It is because we are not desperate enough. Christianity is for desperate people. It is for those people who are at the end of their rope, it is for those people who realize that they are standing on a small portion of a towering inferno. God will allow our sins and our hurts and our habits and hangups to get the best of us, and He will keep knocking the props out until we turn to Him. It happened to Jonah. Jonah didn’t turn to God until he was in the belly of a hugh fish, the digestive juices eating away his skin, all the slime and the gross stuff. Then, the Bible says, Jonah prayed. Jonah came clean. And sadly as I look back on my life, I realize that most of the time we don’t change until we experience great pain. And God will tweak the pain dial hotter and hotter and hotter until we come to our senses. Why don’t we come to our senses now? The little problem that you try to explain away and not deal with, why don’t you come clean on it now instead of waiting until you are standing on top of a towering inferno.
I Timothy 2:4&5. God is on one side and all the people are on the other side and Christ Jesus, Himself, is between them to bring them together by giving His life for all mankind, by wheeling the wheelbarrow across the cable called Calvary to you and to me. Are you desperate? Some are saying that they are ready to get into the wheelbarrow today. And that is great. Some of us are not ready yet. All you have to do is give us some more time and maybe a little bit more pain.
Another reason we don’t get into the wheelbarrow and we don’t understand our condition is the fact that we feel huge amounts of guilt. Guilt. Big time guilt. And I love how Psalms 40:12 puts it, David writing. “Problems far too big for me to solve are piled higher than my head.” Did you check our the drama today? Do you feel like a plate spinner? Honkey-dory. I love that. ” Meanwhile my sins are too many to count and have all caught up with me.” It is just what I have talked about. They have all caught up. And I am ashamed to look up. Some of us see Jesus and we see His eyes of compassion, His eyes of change, His eyes of forgiveness, His eyes of love. We look at Him and we say, “I don’t know, Jesus, I am not sure. I have so many bags, so much guilt, so much pain. You don’t know how far out in the rough I am. I am in the deep weeds. I am tripped up, scarred up, messed up. I can’t take it. I don’t know if this wheelbarrow can support all of my baggage.” Jesus said, “I have died for that baggage, I want to take that baggage. I want that transaction to take place where you give it all to Me and then I will give it all back to you.” You see, we don’t gain control of our lives until we lose control, until we give up control to the One who knows how to push the wheelbarrow. And it is funny. Some of us think we are so suave and debonair and so smart, we are sipping lemonade as we are on top of that building, and Jesus comes to us and says, “Get in.” We say, “Wait a minute Jesus, I’ll just dowse the flames with lemonade. I can put the fire out by myself. I can do it.” Do you realize your condition today?
Another reason that we don’t get into the wheelbarrow is, we don’t understand the nature of God. We don’t understand the character of God. The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. Yet, from the beginning of time we have fashioned God into our image. What have you fashioned God into? Into the image of what? Your anger, a principal at the parochial school that you attended, a boss, a pastor, a priest, a politician? What have you fashioned God into? The children of Israel did this, God’s chosen people. Here God was giving Moses not the ten suggestions but the ten commandments and at that same time God’s children are fashioning something to worship and making God in their image.
When I was at Florida State University I was the only athlete who majored in the fine arts, drawing and painting and sculpting and all that stuff. And one of my favorite things to do was to draw portraits of people and to exaggerate their facial features. For example, my face. I have a long face, you know, kind of a high forehead, a little gray right here, kind of bulking looking ears. I would exaggerate those things when I was drawing myself. What I would do with my friends, I would take their faces and exaggerate them and always put them on a body builders body. Here these guys were normal looking yet I would put them on a Arnold Schwarzenegger body, or some other muscle bound, hulk looking figure. And my friends would get these things and laugh. I would give them to people at parties, and celebrations and things like that. We had a really good time with it. All I was doing, though, was changing faces on someone’s body. And the face didn’t match the body. We look at Jesus and He is standing here with the wheelbarrow and He is saying, “Get in, get in.” Here is what we do. We put a different face on the face of Jesus. And if you do that, I don’t blame you for not getting into the wheelbarrow. Put the face of Christ on Christ. Put the face of Christ on Christ. Do you understand who God is? Do you understand the nature of God and how much you matter to Him?
This process of getting into the wheelbarrow is really a four step process. You have got to understand four things to get into the wheelbarrow. I want you to take out a pen or pencil and write the word STEP vertically because I am taking about the third step of the recovery channel today. When I get into the wheelbarrow four things need to happen, four principles, four precepts, if you will, need to really occur in my life. The S stands for the word Savior. I must accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. The Bible says in the book of Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” You have heard people say, I’ve gotten saved. Go back to the building. Your building is on fire, the flames are tearing you apart, God has shot the cable across, sent Jesus Christ. When you are saved, He actually invites you to come in. You come into the wheelbarrow, He takes the wheelbarrow, evades the flames and He runs across the cable and you are saved. Once it happens to you once, that’s it. You don’t keep on getting saved. “Well, I’ve got to save you again. You mean you have sinned? I’ve got to save you again.” If that happened, if that occurred Jesus would have to die on the cross day in and day out. One time only is enough. So when I get into the wheelbarrow I have got to understand that I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.
T stands for teacher. I have to accept the Bible, God’s word, as my teacher. II Timothy 3:16 says this. “All scripture is designed to teach.” We should never, ever stop learning because the moment we stop learning that is the moment we really stop living and progressing in the Christian life. We have got to learn. We have got to commit our lives to learn. The Bible should be our teacher. It has to be our authority. I has to be our absolute. And to crystalize II Timothy 3:16, the Bible says all scripture is inspired by God. In the original Greek, that word inspired means God breathed. I am going to tell you something. God doesn’t have bad breath. His breath is perfect and His breath will help you and will help me. Christ as my Savior, I accept that. The Bible as my teacher, I accept that.
- Energy. I accept God’s power as my energy. I accept God’s power as my energy. The Bible says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do (some things – no!) everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and the power.” What I want to do though is say, “OK Jesus, I will get into the wheelbarrow but I will tell You where to go. No, no, no, I don’t want to go across the cable, if you take a left here, I think there are some stairs that I can take. No, You are going too fast, you are going too slow. I don’t know. Jesus, move out of the way for a second, You follow me and I will show You where to go.”
P stands for purpose. I accept God’s will as my purpose. God has a dynamite purpose, to steal a phrase from Jimmy Walker. See all you baby busters. Jimmy Walker, who is that? Remember that show, Good Times? One of my favorite shows. He used to say dynamite all the time. I though it would work. If I was talking to a bunch of boomers it would. We have too many baby busters here for that to work. It is dynamite. And the Bible uses the word abundance in John 10:10 and the word abundance,in the Greek, means a life better than you could ever imagine. The picture behind it is waves hitting on the seashore. If you have ever been to the seashore, you have seen the waves keep coming. They don’t stop. Sets of waves, over and over and over again. There is also a picture of pouring water into a cup, and you keep pouring the water and the water spills out over the cup on your hands, on your body, on the table. It is a life so phenomenal, so incredible, so exciting, so adventuresome that we can’t grasp it all. That is the will of God for you. Is it perfect? No. Does God know we will sin? Yes. Is it going to be bumpy in the wheelbarrow? No doubt about it. But it is going to be exciting. Think about it. Going across cable after cable after cable with Jesus pushing. The third step of recovery is a decision process.
Just for a quick review. We have done three things the last two weeks. We have said that we are powerless over our problems. We have said that Jesus Christ has the power to heal and change. And today we have said, it is a decision that we have to make, to get into the wheelbarrow, to give control of our lives over to the will of God as we understand Him. And we are getting a better understanding of who God is through Christ. Read his biography right here in the Bible.
Now, I want to say something to Christians here, people who are Christ followers. We are notorious, Christians, for stopping after step three. We do a dance called the Christian three step. “Swing your partner round and round, the Christian three step is the best you’ve found. Oh, yeah, I am powerless God. You are powerful. Amen. Praise God. I’m going to get into the wheelbarrow and commit my life to you. That is it. See you later. Let’s go to a new topic, Ed. Thank you very much.” I am not a great dancer, I can tell you that. It is something that I can’t do, and that is wild, my living in Texas. I have never in my life two stepped, and also I have never three stepped. There is a dance called the three step too, did you know about that? How many of you can two step? How many of you can three step? My wife and I were at a place about a year ago and we saw a couple who could really do the two step and the three step. It was like they were free on the dance floor. They were moving back and forth. And I was thinking, golly, that has to be so great to dance like that. It looks so easy. But as I talked to people who know how to two step and especially three step, I was assured that there are some really intricate moves that need to be learned to perfection. If you have it down, you can do it. If you don’t have it down, you will kick your partner in the shins day in and day out. For the last two weeks there has been a lot of shin kicking going on as we have tried to apply these steps, these first three steps. But I am going to tell you something. When you apply these three steps, as you live them out, you will be able to move on God’s dance floor like that couple I saw about a year ago dancing to some serious country western music. The decision is great. That is fine and admirable. Don’t stop here. In the next four weeks we are going to talk about some more steps. And these next steps are really the litmus test of this third step. Next week it is going to get scary in here. We are going to do a moral inventory check. We are going to go through seven areas of sin, seven areas of rebellion that we all deal with. A lot of times these seven areas are causing a bigger problem in our life. So we are going to go under the water next week and check out what’s below, what is driving this, what is making me do this. So be in prayer for us as we study and pray for next weeks message. But the whole issue is, I keep going back to it, I can’t get away from it, the old wheelbarrow.
Parenthetically let me say one last word. Don’t miss this. I know some of you are saying OK, Ok, I understand that I am powerless, God has the power, I want to commit my life to His will, I know what I will do. I’ve got it. Instead of making a decision now though, I’ve solved the problems in my life first and then I will make the decision. I will problem solve and get this straightened out and then I will make the decision. Please, please, I beg you, inspired by the word of God, don’t do that. If you are a manager do you say OK we are going to make a decision but before we make a decision at work I want to solve all the problems. It is crazy. You make a decision and then you solve the problem. Today you made the decision to get into the wheelbarrow. Jesus Christ will take care of the problems. You first decide to get in. So, what is it going to be? Are you going to get in or are you going to continue to be burned up and choked by that thick, black smoke of your towering inferno?