Grace Talk: Grace In Relationships | 11-14-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 3/20/2022

Going from a heavily knowledge based message on the Holy Spirit to then go on to teach a heavily heart based message on relationships was quite the jump in sermon prep approaches. In week 8 of the Grace Talk series from Reunion Church, this message was aimed at explaining how God’s grace impacts relationships. In retrospect, I didn’t jump far enough and through insecurity made a sermon from the wrong angle.

Sermon Prep

It was the right time to share this message, but not the right way. I took a head-knowledge approach to something that should’ve come from the heart. But at this time, I didn’t have it in me to do that so this was the ultimate result.

Whereas in the previous message in week 5 of Grace Talk, I spent a lot of time really trying to figure things out. This time, I waited until Saturday night to start preparing this one. Was it pride that I could just wing it? Was it compensating for the fact that I just started therapy and was resisting the topic of emotional intimacy? Laziness as I made other things keep me busy? I think it was all of those and more.

The bottom line: I just didn’t want to talk about this topic. I was avoiding it like Jonah avoiding God. But when duty calls, you can’t just not prepare a sermon you’re teaching the next day. So I did some research and found some semi-interesting ideas from a collection of articles and smashed them together like a Frankenstein mishmash of uncooked concepts.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not a fan of how this turned out. Some good stuff here and there, but not my best and that bothers me today. When I’m not obedient to God in sharing his message, the people of God suffer because of it. That’s on me. This wasn’t a good sermon, yet there’s something to be learned from every message. Either way, here’s what I had in my sermon journal the night of the message:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • 3 married pastors joke
  • Most of us navigate the faith-space a lot like romantic relationships.

Relationship Research

  • If you Google relationship studies, there’s tons about people having difficulty with commitment.
  • For instance, one study showed

“that cellphone snooping partially mediates the significant relationship between emotional instability, intention to break up, and conflicts.”

Influence of Lack of Trust on Romantic Relationship Problems by Abdulgaffar O. Arikewuyo, Kayode K. Eluwole; Bahire Özad
  • They also concluded that “lack of trust is a significant predictor of romantic relationship problems.”
  • Then again, other studies may have a solution for us.
  • In the study called “Who are “We?”,” they introduced a construct named couple identity clarity.
  • Basically, “an individual… believes that the two of them know who they are as a couple.”
  • The study concluded that this construct is directly associated with:
    • higher commitment above and beyond agreement
    • reduced likelihood of relationship dissolution
    • successful conflict resolution
  • Bottom-line: when people trust they know where things are at and that leads to relationships persisting.

Relating To God

  • Do we have couple identity clarity in our relationship with God?
  • Let’s see what Scripture says.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself to me.”

Galatians 2:20 (NLT)
  • Paul shows how relating to God is like a romantic relationship in that there is this desire to give as a sign of love.
  • Again, in reference to Adam and Eve (i.e. marriage), Paul writes

“man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way of Christ and the church are one.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NLT)
  • For us as believers, this couple identity clarity construct can help us in our own relationships with God.
  • A few takeaways: be one, be open, and be optimistic.

Outro

  • To be one is to remain with God.
  • To be open is to communicate with God.
  • To be optimistic is to have joy with God.
  • The grace process all boils down to trust.
    • How do we trust God?
  • In faith and humility, we can trust God in the grace process.

Final Thoughts

This wasn’t even close to my best messages. It’s odd how I see my own arrogance now that I’m dating someone (who’s amazing) and how even just a matter of months ago I wrestled with relational intimacy, which slanted my view of relationships. How bent my perspective was and off I was sharing this message.

There’s nuggets of good here, but this was a great example of what not to do. For my next sermon, I took a more subdued approach and that eventually led to me adopting the standard Reunion Church method of preaching. Here I learned 2 main things: I needed a heart check and my sermon structure sucked.

In the coming months, I have worked on those things with what I think has been very successful. I mean, I’ve got a girlfriend now and my sermons don’t suck. What more could an up and coming pastor want? With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/

Created In Christ: Three I’s in the Pursuit of You | 12-5-2018

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-3-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students find their identity in Jesus.]

Intro

We are lost. America’s latest generation is completely hopeless. According to the Center of Disease Control, the average life expectancy in America has gone down for the third year in a row.

This is due to drug overdoses like what has been seen in the opioid epidemic which has caused over 70,000 deaths, along with suicide rates rising over 10% from last year. “We’re seeing the drop in life expectancy not because we’re hitting a cap [for lifespans of] people in their 80s. We’re seeing a drop in life expectancy because people are dying in their 20s [and] 30s” says Kathryn McHugh of Harvard Medical School quoted in an article by NPR (2). Some researchers believe this epidemic to be from a state of hopelessness caused by the social shifts in the U.S.

What social shifts? Anxiety, depression, immigration, political tension, and school shootings just to name a few. The problem? We don’t know who we are, where we belong, or why we are here.

So how do we figure out who we are, where we belong, and why we are here? We must look at three I’s in the pursuit of you: identity, ideology, and infatuation. We’ll briefly look at all three, but tonight we will focus primarily on identity in Jesus as a new creation.

Identity

Speaking of which, the first of the three I’s in the pursuit of you is identity. What do I mean by that? Put simply, identity is who you are individually as a person. Think specific character traits, hobbies, and interests. It also includes how you present yourself to others whether in person or online on your social media.

Ideology

The second I in the pursuit of you is ideology. This is who you are within a group or a collection of people who share the same ideas and worldview. It could be as simple as DC and Marvel to something more complex like Democrats and Republicans. Even the dweebs who voted for Fortnite as the Game of the Year over Red Dead Redemption II. Still salty about that by the way. It’s a photo-realistic western in an open-world experience! Anyways, it’s whatever. Bottom line: we all have our own cultures and ideologies that we follow.

Infatuation

The final I in the pursuit of you is infatuation. Essentially, what you worship or what you base everything else off of in your life. Now this is going to be what drives you or motivates a lot of your decisions. A personal philosophy, if you will. It’s the passion of fighting for equality, the close-knit relationships with others, or even something as basic as sports.

It’s your starting point and from your infatuation, you find an ideology. From there, you begin to find who you are and develop an identity. Everyone associates with something, belongs somewhere, and worships someone. Who we are, who we’re with, and what we worship are the three things that make you, you. But what does God say about who you were, are, and will be in the future? Let’s look.

Who You Were

In the book of Romans, we’ll see how Paul describes who you were before you found your identity in Jesus to the Christians at that time. [After reading Romans 1:18-25] Now based off of what we just read, what were these people like before they had a personal relationship with Jesus? Hopeless and lost without knowing Jesus personally.

[At this point I did my own rendition of the “the chair’ sermon illustration and it was inspired most by Frank Peretti’s version (3). I don’t remember how I went about the illustration exactly or what I said because I don’t practice stories in my sermons. I improv all examples and illustrations because it comes cross more authentically in-person versus rehearsed. The point of this illustration was to help convey the main crux of the message: finding identity in Christ. In my notes, I only had this sentence as the ending: before we know God, we too are hopeless and lost in our journey of self-discovery.]

Who You Are

Since we’ve gone over who you were, let’s examine who you are now. This can be broken into two main sections: spiritually and practically. For the spiritual aspect of who you are, we find that summed up in the letter of 2 Corinthians. [After reading 2 Corinthians 5:17] Again, Romans 8:24-25 reminds us that “in hope we have been saved” and that we are to persevere in our life with God. Through that perseverance, we will enjoy God even more as He guides us in life.

In short, we are rebooted and get to have a fresh start, which Paul points out in Galatians 2:20. [These two sentences and really the ending were added last-minute for a student that was battling mental health issues. Might not necessarily make sense in the continuity of the message, but needed to be said for them.] You are loved and not a mistake. God is changing us into a masterpiece.

From the practical standpoint, we can see what this looks like in Psalm 1 and I’d encourage you to read that this week. Here in this relationship with God we find our new sense of identity, ideology, and infatuation. What does that really look like though? This is the breakdown. Our new identity is to be known by God, our new ideology is to make God known, and our new infatuation is to be known by God.

Who You Will Be

Lastly, let’s end reading Revelation 21:5-8. [After reading Revelation 21:5-8] Right now in Jesus you get to know who you are, where you belong, and what is worth worshiping. Being a new creation is something we get to enjoy now, but will fully understand later. Let’s pray and go to our small groups.

This was a fun sermon to preach, but does suffer from being overly stuffed with content that could’ve been streamlined with some strategic edits. This was also when I used to write out my sermons and memorize them, which was crazy in retrospect. Now I have transitioned to using a sermon journal for all of my messages. That started in January of 2019 when I shared my version of the Armor of God passage in Ephesians with the Sunday middle school group. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. https://www.npr.org/2018/11/29/671844884/u-s-life-expectancy-drops-amid-disturbing-rise-in-overdoses-and-suicides
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ny3GBVbh8hg