At Gateway Church in Austin, we are finishing up our series called “#No Filter”
Have you ever used a filter to project an image that was different from reality? In life, we can end up seeing the world through a filter that actually distorts reality and hurts our ability to live in the fullness of all God intended. God is the only one who sees reality fully, so how do we remove these negative filters and see the world from His perspective?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:
Here are notes from the message written by Justin McCarty:
Have you been scrolling through photos on your phone and found things you weren’t expecting? Random people showing up in your photo just to ruin it? That’s a photobomb. A photobomb messes up a photo, it’s not what we were expecting. Most of the time we will probably delete those photos. If I look back at my life, I know there’s certain things I’d just like to delete. Choices I’ve made that just sort of photobombed my life and others… ruined things. I wish it were just one album, but sometimes the same thing, the same choice, the same old “me” photobombs me again and again. Each of us have probably experienced the same… choices from the past intruding on the present… lingering sense of shame, guilt… the recurrent patterns of anger or pride; lies we’ve told, shortcuts we’ve taken, things we’ve done to chase the loneliness away; this underlying brokenness drawing us back to the same old addictions, the same bad relationships.
There’s no way to just hit delete on all that either. We can try — move to another town, switch up careers, change the group we hang out with — but we travel with us. Our world is all too eager to remind us: “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” Sooner or later, we’re apt to get photobombed again.
How do you escape the grip of who you’ve been in your less-awesome moments? Can we ever escape it? How do you just hit eject on the cycles of brokenness and destruction that play out again and again? So many people are attempting to answer that question, ie. Self-Help, Positive Thinking, Life Coaching, Psychological Intervention, Meditation, Religion. Because we don’t like to think about those photobomb moments, we are essentially on the hunt for “tweaks” — improvements that will allow us to get on with our lives. But it’s not always that easy.
Most of us would prefer a tweak to our lives, no one wants to deal with a foundation issue. In fact, I think a lot of people approach Jesus and Christianity, hopeful for a tweak. How can I get a couple of principles – “5 Easy Steps to An Awesome Life” so I can get back to the life I had in mind? There’s an old management proverb: “Your system is designed perfectly to get the results you are getting.” It turns out that photobombing is the unfortunate side effect of a foundational issue. But Jesus doesn’t offer tweaks – never has. If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25, NRSV)
THE MEANING OF THE CROSS
This is one of the tougher passages of the Bible; lots of people have taken issue with this. It confirms our worst fears that Christianity is pretty morbid, Jesus seems to be the buzz kill of life, and if there’s a God out there, He wants me to miserable. Can we take a closer look? Start with the strongest image in this passage — this “take up your cross” stuff. The only real reference point we have for a cross today is Jesus – but when He first spoke this, that hadn’t happened yet. No one really understood Jesus was going to be crucified. In first century Israel, Jesus is drawing on an image that would have been readily understood by any of his listeners. Their country was occupied by the Roman government, which had devised crucifixion as a form of execution as a deterrent to civil unrest. Not uncommon for them to crucify hundreds or thousands just to make a point. If you had an iPhone back then, it wouldn’t have been hard for a man carrying his cross to photobomb your pictures.
Like much of Jesus’ teachings, he draws on images and experiences. He doesn’t spell it all out like we do in our educational system. Why bring up this image of a man carrying his cross? What’s the meaning of it? Exactly! What is the meaning of the cross? Well, if you’re carrying your cross, what’s going on in your mind? Are thinking: “What do I need to get at the grocery tonight?” or “Can’t wait for the next season of Stranger Things” None of those things! Why? This is the end of your life. The meaning of the cross is “the end of your life.”
Among other things, I think Jesus is driving at a foundational issue. “Are you tired of the past photobombing the present? Are you coming to me for help? If you want to a fundamentally different experience of the future, you don’t need a tweak. Your control of your life is the foundational issue that’s causing the results you don’t like.” You can imagine the conversation: “Jesus, how can you help me improve my life?” “I can’t. But I can offer you an entirely new one, built on an entirely new foundation.” The foundational issue is our confidence in us versus confidence in Jesus to lead us.
THE PIONEER OF THE PATH
When you have come to the end of your life — having confidence that you know best — then Jesus says, “I can show you a new way. Follow me.” The good news of Christianity is that there is one who knows the way, and that through confidence in Him, you can find the life you’ve been looking for. But it will come at the cost of your life — at the least the one with you at the foundation.
The Bible describes Jesus as the pioneer of this path: …Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NRSV) He does not ask us to go where He has not. In fact, this is why the central message of Christianity is the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. His death on the cross was not merely to atone for our sins or to prove that the heart of God truly is self-sacrificing love, it was also to show us the way — the path to real life. Jesus walked the path to death first so that we would not have to fear it, for He also showed what is on the other side of the cross for those who trust Him — resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:6-9, NRSV)
CONFIDENT IN JESUS
The only you way you will experience this new kind of life is trusting Jesus enough to follow Him — to die to yourself, to trusting your way — and to put your confidence in Jesus. Not just in what He did — though His voluntarily death and His historical resurrection are certainly there as evidence of His trustworthiness — you’re invited to put your confidence in Him now, the living, resurrected Jesus. You can trust His way, You can learn, as His follower, to trust His words, to adopt His worldview, to join Him in His purposes for the world. The gospel is there is nothing that isn’t trustworthy about Jesus — as pioneer of the path, He is fully worthy of your confidence.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV) This is where Jesus wants to lead you — through the death of the old you into the resurrection of a new person, whose foundation is securely resting on Jesus. This new creation is you — who you were meant to be — No Filter! You can experience the power of this resurrection in a moment — raised to new life through confidence in Jesus — and then spend the rest of your new life as a student in God’s Kingdom learning from Jesus how to truly live.
The question I want to leave you with today is: have you developed enough confidence in Jesus to commit to follow Him? Confidence grows through experience – you don’t need to fake it. Either you’ve experienced enough of Jesus to weigh the options and choose Him, or you need more time. That’s a fine way to walk out of here today – I’m on my way, but I think I need to experience or learn more of you, Jesus, before I’ll be confident enough to follow you. Others of you, no way – I cannot walk away from this opportunity. I don’t get it all, but I see enough about Jesus to recognize that His way is better than mine. I want to turn away from me, my old way of doing life, the photobombing brokenness that comes from all that, and I want to follow Jesus into the new life.