April 27, 2003
(Opens with a video of Fellowship Church’s own version of Trading Spaces).
I definitely think one of the most powerful phrases to come out of a person’s mouth is only four words long. This phrase is perplexing and mystical. “God changed my life.” When someone says that, what do you think? If you are like me, you ask yourself, “Is the person making the statement doing most of the changing and God doing a little bit, or are they just standing there and bam! — God changes them. What’s going on? Could it be maybe a combination of the two?” God changed my life. We are going to find out this weekend and next weekend that the process God uses to change a life is a lot like a room on the popular show, “Trading Spaces.” It’s about a carpenter, it’s about a designer, and it’s about people doing some work.
Last weekend, we kicked off this series. If you missed last weekend, please pick up the tape, because everything I say today hinges upon what I talked about last weekend. We discovered last time that all of us are in rubble trouble. Remember that? All of us have dwelling places that we have messed up, because we all sin. We all drop the ball.
We discovered, though, that God did something. We discovered that God set forth an ingenious construction plan. He sent Jesus to leave his place, to take our space on the cross, and to offer us, not ho-hum grace, but amazing grace. We said that if we admit the fact that we are in rubble trouble, if we turn to God’s ingenious construction plan, and if we open the door of our lives and invite Christ to come in, then we trade our failures for his forgiveness, our guilt for his grace, our sin for a Savior and, in this context, our condemnation for a Carpenter. That’s what happens when we become believers. Trading spaces occurs in a real sense.
You might be saying, “Well, Ed, that’s fine and dandy, but what does life change look like? I understand what happens when Christ comes in. What does this renovation of the heart look like?”
Today, we are working on phase two of God’s ingenious construction plan. Phase one is the choice that you have and I have. Phase two is the process because Christianity is basically a choice followed by a massive construction plan.
The Bible talks about this construction plan in the book of Philippians 2:12-13, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Say the phrase “work out” with me. Now say the next phrase, “work in,” with me. We work out what God by his grace and mercy has worked in. What does it mean to work out? This phrase, “work out,” means, “to develop,” or “to complete a project.” That’s what God wants to do in your life and in mine.
Here is how we get-in on phase two of God’s construction plan. Here is how we get-in on working out. We have got to fire ourselves. We resign, in other words, and God designs.
We say, “God, I am not wired to design my life. You are. You are the designer. I’m not.”
Last time, we looked at Jeremiah 29:11. Let’s look at it once again, because it’s sort of a foundational scripture for this series. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Plans. God has an awesome plan for your life and mine. The people on the video, what did they do? They didn’t try to design and do everything. No. They deferred to Dina and Luwanna, the designers. We must do the same with God. But we say, “God, here are my plans. I know how to do my marriage. I know how to do my career. Let me draw this and that. I’ll just white-knuckle my plans. I see your plans, and when they are convenient, I’ll follow them. But I’ve got my plans.”
God says, “Unroll your plans. Let me design. Let me move. Let me renovate your heart and life.” Because, for your personality and my personality, for your gifts and my gifts to really hit on all cylinders, for our dwelling place to become a dream home, we have got to do it God’s way. We’ve got to say, “God, you design.”
But the great thing about God is this. God doesn’t just design an outward structure. He’s also the quintessential interior decorator.
A while back, my parents gave Lisa and I a couch that was twenty years old. This couch was great quality, but the upholstery was pretty hideous. It looked like something that the Brady’s would have in their family room. A designer came over to our house and she said, “Oh, Ed and Lisa, I want to recover this couch. Here is a swatch. It will look like this.” [Ed holds up a swatch of material to demonstrate how God will show us a piece of his plan.]
I’m going, “What? Wait a minute. You want to put this all over the couch, right?” I had a hard time seeing it. I couldn’t really visualize it that well.
She said, “Just trust me.”
Finally, I looked at Lisa and said, “Lisa, you know what? She is the designer. I’m not and you’re not.” I trusted her.
Several weeks later, the couch came back and, wow! It was unbelievable. That’s what God does in your life and mine. He’s the ultimate interior decorator, the designer. He says, “Here’s a swatch. Here’s what I am going to do in your life. Here’s what I am going to do. Just this little swatch. Just trust me. It might look kind of strange to you, but just trust me now. I’m the designer. I’m the decorator. I see the whole context of the room. I know your colors, your desires, your design, and what you need and want better than you do. So, just trust me on this one.”
I think about Rob Johnson. Four or five years ago, what was Rob Johnson doing? Rob was a tennis pro. He was batting around tennis balls with a bunch of soccer moms. That’s what Rob was doing. God showed him a swatch of fabric.
God said, “Hey, Rob, guess what? I want you to sing now and then at Fellowship Church. You know that church you are attending. You have some gifts.”
What’s Rob doing now? Rob is leading an entire worship ministry here. Sold-out believer. No one can sing like Rob, can they? Unbelievable. Rob didn’t know the whole context of his room four or five years ago. Talk to him. God gave him just a little bit at a time — one swatch at a time.
What is God showing you right now? Are you saying, “Well, I’m not sure about that God.”?
What is God showing you? Trust him. He’s the designer and you’re not.
How many of you like to work out? If you like to work out, lift weights, Stairmaster, or whatever, lift your hand. [Ed picks someone from the congregation.] This guy right here. What’s your name, sir? “Kirk.” Stand up for a second, Kirk. You know, I never embarrass anybody. This is Kirk. Kirk does not work out to get a body, because, Kirk, guess what? You already have a body. I see you, Kirk. He works out to develop the body he already has. Thank you, Kirk. Let’s give him a round of applause. [The congregation applauds.]
It’s the same way in the Christian life. I develop, the Bible says, what I already have. I work out what has already been worked in. We resign. God designs.
Here’s the second part of this construction process. Watch this now. Christ, the carpenter, assigns and the Holy Spirit of God refines. So, I resign and God designs. Then Jesus assigns and the Holy Spirit refines.
You might say, “Well, Ed, I just don’t have the power to change.”
You’re right. You don’t. I don’t have the power to change. We can’t change our lives. We can’t. But I know a power that can.
Acts 1:8 says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”
God the Father sent the Son, and the Son gives glory to the Father. God the Son sent the Spirit, and the Spirit gives glory to the Son. The carpenter, Jesus Christ, gives us work. He gives us assignments and the power source is the person of the Holy Spirit of God. What I am talking about today and next Saturday and Sunday is simply sanctification. Last weekend, I talked about salvation for you theologians. This weekend, it’s sanctification.
You may ask, “What is sanctification? Sanctifi-what, Ed?”
Sanctification is the process in which God, by the person of the Holy Spirit of God, forms and conforms us into the image of Christ. That’s sanctification. Salvation is external. Salvation is outside of ourselves. There is nothing I can do to merit what God did for me. I’m in rubble trouble. God built something to me that is outside of me. Christ sacrificed his life on the cross for my sins. Once I receive Christ, something outward comes inward. The sanctification process is the second phase of God’s construction process. We defer to the Carpenter. We defer to the Spirit of God and he lives within us and does his work from the inside out. So, the carpenter and the Holy Spirit of God assign and refine us. They work in concert together.
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 says, “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.”
This is something very important. I’m going to come back to this a little bit later. Obedience unlocks the door to understanding. Say that with me. Let’s just hammer that onto our frontal lobe. Obedience unlocks the door to true depth and understanding.
“Well, I don’t understand your will and purpose, God. I don’t understand this building project deal. I don’t get it.”
Do you know what God says? “Trust me. Obey me.”
As we trust him and obey him, we will look back and say, “Oh, now I see your brilliance, God. Now I see your genius.”
Christ assigns us stuff to do and the Holy Spirit refines. Any good carpenter is going to be plugged into the power and the power tools. There is going to be power on – sight to build an awesome structure. We have the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
Do you remember last weekend? I was talking in front of that house, and a big bulldozer just obliterated the house behind me. If you missed it, I think we have it in DVD. It’s a shocker. After the house was obliterated, several of us were walking around out there. There was also an electrician there. The electrician had opened up a transformer, one of those big green boxes. I was looking inside the transformer because I had never seen inside a transformer before.
I said, “Wow, its pretty cool.”
He said, “Yup.”
I said, “Man, there is a fire ant bed inside the transformer.”
He said, “It happens a lot, sir. Those fire ants love electricity.”
I said, “Really?”
He said, “Yep.”
Then, I leaned down and looked at the fire ant bed. I started flicking some of the fire ants away from the transformer, and here is what the guy said to me.
He said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
I asked, “What do you mean? Why?”
He said, “’Cause you might get killed. Do you see that deal about an inch away from your finger?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “That baby carries 72,000 volts.”
“Whoa!” I said, “barbeque pastor.”
So many people get that close to the power of God. We get about an inch away and God wants to change us, redo us and renovate our lives, but we just back off.
Christ assigns stuff for us to do and the Holy Spirit refines. What does that really mean? “What does that look like,” you might be thinking.
Let’s say that you are getting ready to say something critical about someone. I know you never do, but let’s just say, as a Christian, you are getting ready to criticize someone. Right before you criticize them, you feel some hammering and sawing. That’s the Holy Spirit of God saying, “Hey, what you are getting ready to do is wrong. You are getting ready to point out a speck of sawdust in someone’s eye when you have a big honking two by four in your own eye. You were going to cut down someone who is made in the image of God. You were going to try to bring them down to elevate yourself. Don’t do that. Defer to me. Follow me. Don’t say anything. Build the person up. Just tap into my power.”
We have a choice to make, don’t we? We either follow the leadings and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, allow him to refine us, and sand away those rough character edges, or we say, “No, I’ll do it my way.” That is what the Bible is talking about.
We resign. God designs. Jesus Christ, himself, assigns. The Holy Spirit of God refines. I would love to diesel on, but I’m going to stop for a second. That’s next weekend. Next weekend is the reveal part. I can’t wait for next weekend. You will not believe what you see. But, I do want to give you some homework. Because, remember, “Trading Spaces” is all about homework. Here are three words, right quick. Let’s download these words.
Number one — meditate. After you resign, allow God to design, allows Christ to assign, and allow the Holy Spirit to refine. The way to build this stuff into your life, the way to allow Lord Jesus to renovate your life, is through meditation. This book is a blueprint for believers. [Ed holds up the Bible.] It is. What if you gave two sets of plans to a builder? Your structure would be chaotic. It would be horrible. God says, “Meditate on my blueprint. Know my blueprint. Let it take hold of you, because when we take hold of it, it will take hold of us.
Look at Psalm 77:12, “I will meditate on all your works.” That means filling your mind with the Word. I’m not talking about this empty, secular meditation. That’s emptying your mind. I’m talking about filling your mind. The verse says, “I will meditate on all your words and consider all of your mighty deeds.” So, meditate. Know this book, pray it through, and read it through.
The second word is “submit.”
You might be thinking, “Submit! I don’t like that word. That means throwing in the towel, going soft, means you are not tough.”
No, that’s worldly submission. Biblical submission is a position of power and energy. We submit ourselves. We might have to submit ourselves 30-50 times each day to the Lord.
Say, “Lord, I submit myself to you. I resign. You design. Christ, assign. Holy Spirit, refine. Okay. I submit myself to you.”
Remember what I talked about earlier — obedience unlocks the door to knowledge. Let me talk to the husbands for a second. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” That’s deep. That’s mysterious. We say, “I don’t get that. I don’t quite understand that.” Well, obey it. Start loving your wife in a self-sacrificing, God-honoring, and initiative-taking way. As you do it, as you are obedient to it, you will look back and say, “Now I see the genius of God. Now I get it.” Obedience unlocks the door to depth and knowledge.
Maybe your work is just whipping you. Maybe you are saying, “Man, I am just sick and tired of work. My boss, my manger, and the coworkers are about to just wear me out.”
The Bible says whatever you do, whatever I do, do it for the glory of God. If we understand that concept, if we obey it, our workplace can become a worship space. When we trust God, do the stuff, and work for Christ, we will look back and say, “Oh, now I see the genius God of working.” Meditate. Submit.
There’s one more word — welcome. Look at what the half-brother of Jesus, James, said in James 1:2-4, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!”
All kinds of trials and temptations come your way and mine, and God is going to use those for his glory to build stuff into our lives that we could not build unless the trial or the temptation came your way or my way. We are talking about working out what God by his grace has worked in. Work in. You know what that phrase “work in” means? In the Greek, it is pronounced, “energero.” We get the word “energy” from it. We have energy to meditate, energy to submit, and energy to welcome.
Now, I want to give you a prayer that is only for a few people here. This prayer is only for a few because it is super deep. Everybody doesn’t have to pray it, but if you want to take it to the next level, I challenge you to. –
Here’s the prayer:
“Lord, if this _____________ helps fulfill your design and desire in my life, please don’t remove it. Lord, if this _______________, (whatever it is — a painful situation, problem, or whatever) helps fulfill your design and desire in my life, please don’t remove it.”
Meditate. Submit. Welcome. We need to practice these things, because great stuff will occur when we do.
Let me tell you what I am talking about. A couple of years ago, I took 108 people, to be exact, to the Holy Land, to Israel. Preston Mitchell tagged along as one of the co-leaders on the trip. I enjoyed my time there. I taught at the different sights. It’s just a spiritual high to walk where Jesus walked. One day, hopefully when the world settles down, we can take some more trips over there. I had to leave a day early to fly back to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, because we had four weekend services at the time. I flew by myself from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt, and spent the night in Frankfurt. Then I flew from Frankfurt to Dallas/Ft. Worth, cleared customs, drove to Fellowship, changed clothes in my office, and spoke four times with jet lag. It was kind of a wild experience.
Anyway, one of the policies that we have here at Fellowship Church that our Board has set forth is that I never travel alone. In this circumstance, I did travel alone. It was weird traveling by myself somewhere in the world that I had never seen. I was alone there on the plane. When I flew into Frankfurt, I had not seen Lisa in two weeks. I was coming off of a spiritual high. I was preparing for the message, a little emotionally drained. I knew going into this hotel what the temptation would be. If you know anything about Germany, you know that the television over there is very sexually explicit. They have x-rated stuff right there, for anyone to see. I felt the temptation to watch that stuff on the television. The remote was right there by the bedside table. I was alone. No one knew me in Frankfurt, Germany. I could have done whatever I wanted to do, you know? I felt this pull in my life. I remember meditating on God’s word and I remember submitting myself. I prayed, “God, I feel the temptation. I feel the trial. I welcome it now, because I know you are going to build some great stuff in my life. I am going to look past the temptation to what you are going to do.”
Do you know what happened? Because of the power of the Holy Spirit of God, not my power, I never even turned the television on. I never did. Is it because Ed Young is some great guy? No, I am a sinner, a rank and vile person, like everyone. It’s because of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. When I saw Lisa, there was no guilt. When I preached the message four times that weekend, God blessed it in a mighty and supernatural way.
If God can do that in my life, I know he can do it in yours. There is no doubt about it. That’s the result of trading spaces. That’s the result of the power of God. So, when you hear someone say, “God changed my life,” know that God does. He has changed my life and he has changed many other lives. He wants to change your life as well.