Reclaiming Your Relationships

  • Reclaiming Your Relationships
  • Philippians 2:3-8
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • April 15, 2018
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4-15-18 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

It is amazing to me what can happen with a piece of wood that otherwise looks like it has been used up or is past its prime. I first learned this lesson when I was living in Orlando, Florida.

The church I was pastoring decided to build a reclaimed wood wall across the back of our sanctuary. It was made out of a bunch of old pallets we collected from the rear parking lot of a local big box store. By nature, pallet wood is not top quality wood. It tends to be full of imperfections and marred with dents, scuffs and odd markings.

 

It took a crew of about twenty people most of a day to complete the project. People were busy planing boards, making cuts and pulling nails. I was responsible for sanding the boards. It doesn’t take much skill to use a palm sander on a board which is why I think they gave me the job. Time and again I would pick up boards to sand and over and over I would wonder why I was wasting my time sanding. In my estimation, several of the boards I found myself working on were downright ugly. I didn’t expect they would make the cut (pun intended) to end up being part of the wood wall.

 

To my great surprise, many of the boards that I had deemed to be the least desirable of the bunch were the ones that, when arranged together with other random boards, made the wall outstandingly beautiful. Their previous imperfections were now a great asset when placed in the hands of the skilled craftsmen doing the install work. Looking at the wood wall it was as if the boards were giving their own testimony to the power of redemption. Wood that was once thought only good for the scrap pile was now part of a beautiful mosaic of wood.

 

On Easter Sunday here at LakeRidge we started a new message series entitled, “Reclaimed.” We’ve been looking at how the resurrection of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to experience resurrection and restoration in different areas of our lives.

The visual image for this has been the transformation of the charred pieces of wood from our Lenten series that were then reclaimed and made like new to become that cross that stands before you this morning as depicted in our intro video this morning.

We are going to be examining how we can reclaim things that need to experience some resurrection power. Maybe you feel like you are running low on faith right now? Maybe you feel like all of the joy has been sucked out of your life? Or maybe you feel a great deal of anxiety or angst rather than peace?  We are going to look at reclaiming each of those things.

However, this morning we are going to start with reclaiming our relationships. If you have a relationship of any kind in your life, maybe a dating relationship, a working relationship, a family relationship then you can benefit from what we are going to be talking about today. I’m going to focus on marital relationships, but the principles of this are good pretty much across the board.

Even if you are in the midst of a relationship that is really strong or at a good point right now, I want you to pay attention as well because in the world we live in you never know when a relationship is going to end up under strain.

If we want to restore a relationship then a great place for us to look is to Scripture, specifically to the example of Jesus and how He lived and loved people. For, in His example we have a road map for the kind of behavior we need to model in how we relate to one another.

The Apostle Paul understood this truth so when he was writing to the Church at Philippi in Philippians 2:3-8.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

This is what it looks like to love like Jesus loved. It starts with the idea of doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. If you let that soak in for a moment you begin to realize that going deeper it carries with it the idea of competing.

We live in a culture that encourages us to compete with those around us, that promotes that idea that for me to have what I want means that I have to beat someone else out in order to advance.

But that’s not exactly a healthy mentality to carry over into a dating, marriage or family relationship. If I see myself as being in competition with you, then that can really start to complicate the relationship.

Instead, Paul paints a very different picture of what a relationship needs to look like. He is saying, “I’ve studied Jesus and here’s what I found in studying the way he lived in relationship with other people.”

This really is the overarching idea of the passage: Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Act like he is more important than you. Make decisions like you really believe she is more important than you.

Have you ever been somewhere where you were not the most important person in the room? Sure you have. If you’ve ever been to a wedding then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You show up and no one really notices. The bride walks into the room and everyone else stands up and looks her way. No one is really wondering about your thoughts or ideas in that moment. On the other hand, everyone shows complete deference to the bride.

This isn’t the idea that some people have greater personal worth than other people do. That isn’t the case at all. What Paul is talking about here is making a conscious decision to value the other person in a way that demonstrates personal humility, that thinks of that person’s thought and feelings first.

So for example in marriage:

  • Husbands it might look something like deferring to your wife’s opinion, not interrupting her to offer up your own idea or correcting her.
  • Wives, it might mean trusting in your husband’s ability to do something and let him carry it out even thought it might not get done exactly the way you would have done it. You choose not to offer up your critical eye.

This is the idea of show respect no matter what it means.

This might seem like a really risky way of living. Some of you are already wondering, “What if they take advantage of it?” They might. The other person could absolutely decide to act that way.

But here is what I want you to spend some time thinking about. Consider your most valued possession. You are careful of how people treat it. It is special. You treat it with a little bit of awe.

Now I want you to think about someone you are in relationship with – maybe your spouse, someone you date, maybe a parent, maybe an adult child or a sibling. What if you were to treat that person like you would your most prized possession? You treat that special someone in your life with awe.

When it comes to marriage we don’t always do that and that’s why we fall out of love. At first, she called and you were in awe. He gave you something and you were in awe. It comes naturally.

After some years pass what first came naturally now needs to become intentional.

Value him. Value her. Treat the other person just like you would your most prized possession and see if that doesn’t go a long way toward restoring the relationship.

Then Paul continues with his thoughts of what he has observed in Jesus. He writes, “Not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of the other.”

That’s hard to do. It’s just hard. I’m mostly interested in the things that interest me. I’m not naturally interested in the things that aren’t interesting to me. Left to my own, I gravitate toward the things that interest me.

You have to decide to learn to express interest in the things that interest the person you want to be in love with or have a friendship or connection with.

For example, it isn’t any secret that I’m a huge Texas Tech fan. I love my team. Joni on the other hand didn’t grow up as a huge sports enthusiast. But when she married me she made a conscious decision to begin to care about my team because she knew that I cared about them. It wasn’t her natural inclination to care about my team, but out of love she’s made that effort over the years.

Most recently we had plans to go to Santa Fe to celebrate our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. Joni has never been there. She’s heard many of you talk about what a great place it is for a getaway and we were both looking forward to going.  But then the Tech basketball team made the NCAA tournament and it was announced that the first two games would be in Dallas.

I was still committed to go to Santa Fe, but Joni came to me and said, “Don’t you want to go to Dallas and watch Tech play? We can go to Santa Fe some other time.” That is just one example of a time that she placed me and what she knew I would want to get to do ahead of what she would have really enjoyed.

So we have to ask ourselves, “Am I going to look to her interests or only mine? Am I going to care about what he cares about? Am I going to discover what your interests are and move in that direction?”

Think back to when you were young and you fell in love. You found out what they were interested in and you were interested in it. She said, “I’m a runner.” All of the sudden you said, “I love to run.”

At this point Paul begins to read our minds a little bit. He senses that we read what he has written and are thinking, “Wait a minute. Nobody does that. Who does that?”

Remember, here’s what Paul says, “5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”

Again, thinking about marriage for a moment, I think we would have to acknowledge that we all have leverage points. “I earned the money.” “I birthed those kids.” You get the idea.

Jesus was the most important person in the room each time and he never leveraged that for His sake. That’s the model. We are charged with taking on the same way of thinking that Jesus demonstrated.

Jesus is God. He is a member of the Trinity. He could have played that card, but He intentionally chose not to do that.

Instead, here is what He chose to do, “7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

He emptied Himself. In our culture we say instead, “He’s so full of himself. She’s full of herself,” when we look at other people. Do you see that contrast between Jesus emptying Himself and our propensity to be full of ourselves?

He didn’t have to empty Himself. So why did he? “8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Jesus decided to subordinate Himself. Guess who He did it to? You and me. How did Jesus do this?

  • Did He come home earlier for dinner?
  • Did he pay attention during conversations?
  • Did he start doing a better job of sticking to the budget?
  • Pick the kids up without being asked?

What did He do? Became obedient to death on a cross.

Jesus had a dilemma. “I can either maintain my rights due Me and have no relationship with humanity or I can give up My rights and dip into their world.” Jesus had to make a decision between placing Himself first or placing us first. The one thing He knew was that he couldn’t have it both ways.

When it comes to our relationships we can’t have it both ways. I can have everything due me or I can submit myself to the other person.

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He put our deal ahead of his Heal. He put us first and not only did He not need to, but we weren’t equals to begin with.

If I want to work on restoring relationship with someone I have to die to who I am. Opt for relationship over demanding my way or anything I think I should receive. We can’t have it both ways.

Part of us will have to die and submit. If you are married maybe you’ve watched or tried to have it both ways and you’ve ended up with a roommate or a contract.

Only when two people come together and surrender to each other can the relationship move toward restoration. I give up having it be about what I want because I value what you want. You give up what you want and begin to think of what I would want. You opt for relationship.