· ILLUSTRATION: The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper.
· The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.”
The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office 800 “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking acceptance from their fathers.
· So you see that a whole world of people is hungering for this basic idea of approval and acceptance.
· Garrison Keillor tells this story called ‘IMPOSSIBLE DAD’.
o The town ball club was the Lake Wobegon Schroeders, so named because the starting nine were brothers, sons of E.J. Schroeder. E.J. was ticked off if a boy hit a bad pitch. He’d spit and curse and rail at him. If a son hit a home run, E.J. would say, “Blind man coulda hit that one. Your gramma coulda put the wood on that one. If a guy couldn’t hit that one out, there’d be something wrong with him. Wind practically took that one out of here, didn’t even need to hit it much,” and lean over and spit.
So E.J.’s sons could never please him, and if they did, he forgot about it. Once, against Freeport, his oldest boy, Edwin Jim Jr., turned and ran to the center field fence for a long, long, long fly ball. He threw his glove forty feet in the air to snag the ball and caught the ball and glove. When he turned toward the dugout to see if his dad had seen it, E.J. was on his feet clapping, but when he saw the boy look to him, he immediately pretended he was swatting mosquitoes. The batter was called out, the third out. Jim ran back to the bench and stood by his dad.
E.J. sat chewing in silence and finally said, “I saw a man in Superior, Wisconsin, do that a long time ago. But he did it at night, and the ball was hit a lot harder.”
· —Garrison Keillor, We Are Still Married (Penguin, 1990)
· Now you think that this stuff doesn’t happen in real life but it does – have you ever heard of a baseball player named Keith Hernadez?
· Here is his story.
· Keith Hernandez was one of baseball’s top players. He was a lifetime .300 hitter who has won numerous Golden Glove awards for excellence in fielding. He’s won a batting championship for having the highest average, the Most Valuable Player award in his league, and even the World Series. Yet with all his accomplishments, he has missed out on something crucially important to him — his father’s acceptance and recognition that what he has accomplished is valuable. Listen to what he had to say in a very candid interview about his relationship with his father: “One day Keith asked his father, ‘Dad, I have a lifetime 300 batting average. What more do you want?’ His father replied, ‘But someday you’re going to look back and say, “I could have done more.”‘”
· So you see, the entire world is looking for acceptance.
· But, the problem is that sometimes we are looking for acceptance from people that can’t give it because they have never had it themselves and have no idea what it is or how to give it.
· Well, God the Father solves this acceptance problem in one fell swoop!
Ephesians 1:6 (KJV)
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
· To a world looking for acceptance and hungering for approval, God said, I have accepted you in Jesus and I have approved of you as my son.
· What does the gospel mean – can we boil it down to one sentence?
o Yes, here it is.
§ “I have accepted you, will you accept Me?”
· The world goes about it a different way. They have their substitute for approval.
o The world’s way is always 180 degrees backwards from God.
· The world system is fueled on the idea of performance.
· Notice what the baseball players father said, ‘you could have done more’.
· This is called ‘performance mentality.’
THE CURSE OF PERFORMANCE THINKING
· The plain truth of the matter is simply this, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is NOT about your performance. It is about Jesus performance!
o We are accepted in Him because Jesus performed the will of the Father.
o “You could have done more”, the baseball father said. I am here to tell you boldly someone did do more;
§ Jesus did it all!
§ Jesus did it completely!
§ Jesus did it so that no more could be done!
§ He fully did the will of God!
§ He fully satisfied the demands of justice!
· Our society has not gotten this.
· Our society is a performance oriented society.
o Look at what we do…
§ Our school structure as it is today is a performance oriented set-up. Some get A’s and some get B’s and some get C’s and some get well you know whatever other letters are left!
o If we are not careful and teach our children correctly, our children will derive their sense of self-worth from the grades that they get or don’t get.
o Of course our colleges are set – up similarly – those that get the scholarships are those that perform the best to their standard.
o And as we go on, we see that the corporate world takes the students the performed the best in their field of endeavor.
o The job world perpetuates this thinking with performance reviews. We get raises based on how well we do, on how well we perform.
o Many of us have also experienced the cruelty of individuals who have deemed us and made us feel less than a person because we didn’t measure up to the standard.
· Now one thing about the church world in general is that whatever is going on in the world has a tendency to seep into the church and that thinking gets mixed-in with truth.
· Performance thinking has gotten into the church.
o Holiness churches, for example, teach this concept of ‘good Christians’ vs. ‘bad Christians’.
§ In that church good Christians were accepted, bad Christians were not approved.
o What is a good Christian women in those circles?
§ A good Christian women is one who does not wear make-up or wear pants. They were accepted. And the peer pressure that is in that setting. Oh brother!
§ And then there were Christians. You know bad Christians may be saved (maybe – not really sure) but one thing is for sure with bad Christians need another dip in the fountain filled with blood. (Whatever that means…)
· Now don’t be fooled, this stuff doesn’t just happen in the holiness church. In our circles, it’s the same thing.
o But instead of clothes, it’s faith.
o We are Word of Faith around here.
o If you have faith, you are in and if your struggling in an area, if you have to go to the doctor, or you’re struggling with finances, then you must not have faith and so the same peer pressure is felt.
· But we need to challenge this type of stuff.
· We need to take our big hairy toes and put it right across the line!
o Because you cannot reject what God has accepted!
o You cannot gainsay what God has approved!
o Look at this interaction between God the Father and Jesus.
§ You know John 3:16 right?
§ What about Matthew 3:16? (That’s how you remember this).
Matthew 3:16–17 (KJV)
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
· The Father said to His Son, I am pleased with you.
o Now at this point, Jesus was not in the ministry.
o At this point, He had done no mighty works, no miracles. He had done nothing!
o But the Father still said – I approve of you!
o And He said this to Him BEFORE He ever did any ministry.
o God the Father accepted His Son before He ever performed anything!
· What else is the gospel?
o Here is the truth of the gospel; here is what the gospel is!
· Grace accepts the unacceptable
o The leper that came to Jesus was not accepted but Jesus reached out and touched him.
o The Pharisees did not accept sinners – Jesus had them around Him.
o Women were not to be spoken to in public but Jesus approached them (the women at the well).
§ This rebel Jesus (I love Him, He’s my kind of guy!)
§ This ‘toe crossing the line Messiah!’
o Jesus accepted everybody.
§ Tax collectors,
§ The mentally unstable like the Madmen of Gadara.
§ The physically handicapped
§ He had dinner with Pharisees,
§ Met with intolerant religious people
o Jesus met with everybody!
o When you understand the gospel, you will be careful and watchful that this worldly performance type of thinking does not get into your spiritual life. Because in the spiritual life, it is a cancer.
§ In Jesus Christ everyone is the same.
§ You are not better if you’re a preacher or worse if you do not have gifts of the spirit flowing in your life.
§ Look at this parable where…
Jesus Sets The Record Straight ON PERFORMANCE ORIENTED THINKING
Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
o Look at the Pharisees approach to God
o It was based on performance
§ It was based on what he didn’t do
· I don’t extort, I not unjust, I don’t commit adultery.
§ It was also based on what he did do
· I fast and I pay my tithes.
· All of it was performance based!
o The Pharisee based his spiritual standing on what he did and what he didn’t do.
· The Tax Collector
o Depended on the mercy of God for his acceptance.
o In this New Covenant, acceptance is based on mercy and grace.
o It is based on the fact that you understand that you are not any better than anybody else and you don’t need to be better because Jesus was the best in your place.
· In God, there is no such thing in God as unacceptable sons.
o We are all sons of God.
1 John 3:2 (KJV)
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
o Everyone is accepted.
o There is no higher place that you can ascend to than son-ship.
o Don’t confuse acceptance with effectiveness.
o We are all striving to learn how to be effective for the kingdom of God as we learn to walk in love and to walk in God’s Word.
THE DEATH OF COMPARISON
· The spirit of comparison (this idea of comparing ourselves to one another, comparing our gifts, comparing our spirituality) is eliminated when we understand this idea of acceptance.
· Acceptance eradicates comparison!
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
o Here is the nail in the coffin of comparison.
§ If Jesus is happy with you, if Jesus accepts you, why would you care about how you measure up? If you measure up to Jesus, you measure up to everyone else.
o Comparison, in and of itself, is a no win situation.
o Look at it.
§ If you compare yourself to someone else, if you evaluate your Christianity against another and you judge that you come out better than them doesn’t that get over into pride?
§ If I compare myself to you and I come out worse than you, than don’t I get over into feeling bad and having my self-esteem damaged?
§ So the end result of comparison is being put-down or exalted.
· Neither is beneficial.
o Finally, notice this next story that Jesus told on performance thinking.
Matthew 20:1–15 (ESV)
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
· Notice that everyman, every section hired – those that were hired first, those that were hired at the third hour or three hours into the shift, six hours into the shift up to the eleventh hour – all received a penny!
o Those that had worked – those that had labored long throughout the day did not receive more because they were around first and for a longer period of time.
· Notice the result of performance thinking!
o It caused the workers to begrudge the generosity of the landowner which in this case symbolically is God!
o It caused them to question the wisdom and the fairness of God.
§ Performance thinking cannot be good if it leads to that end.
o If we think that we deserve something because of our time, diligence, and commitment of service, we have negated the real value of what we have done.
o All who respond to the grace of God in Jesus’ kingdom invitation are equal disciples, and we must be careful not to measure our worth by what we have done and what we have sacrificed.4
o Our calling is still one of grace, and a grateful heart will serve without thought of reward or without comparison to others.
o We just need to know that at the end of the day, we cannot get any higher than a brother or a sister in God and being accepted in Him is okay.
4 So also B. Rod Doyle, “The Place of the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1–16,” ABR 42 (1994): 39–58.