In this message, we learn the importance of cultivating healthy relationships.
Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I am so glad that you’re here with us today. Whatever campus you’re at, can we go ahead and just take a moment and welcome each whatever campus that you are. And we are so glad that you are here with us today and it is the beginning of summer. School is out. The heat is here. And I believe this is going to be the best summer we have ever had at Valley Creek Church. And so we’re kind of changing things up a little bit today and I’m coming at you from one of our campus atriums. I don’t know if you realized this or not, but the atrium space in any of our campuses, it really is one of the most important spaces we have because this is the place where we build relationships. This is the place where we love each other, where we serve each other, where we laugh, and talk, and make new friends, and pray for one another, and just hang out.
So this has always been an incredibly important space to us. But in the weeks to come in this next series, it’s going to be even more important because today, we’re kicking off a new series called healthy relationships. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about building healthy relationships in our lives. And every week, there’s going to be a relational element available for you in our atrium spaces to just connect and hang out early and come and stay late and make some new friends and just build into the relationships in your life because healthy relationships is really our theme for 2017 here at Valley Creek Church. In fact, what I want to do for the next few minutes is I’m going to bring you back to the first message we preached this year, when we really talked about the theme that God had for us in our church this year. And I think it’s so easy as we go through the year and life starts happening and we do sermon series and great things and your life is busy and activities and commitments, all the stuff to forget that which God has been speaking to us.
And so for the next few moments, I just want you to lean in and listen. Because healthy relationships is the heartbeat of what God is doing in our church, in our lives this year. And I don’t want you to forget that which God spoke to us as we kick off 2017 together. So lean in and listen. Here’s how we started the year together. This year I believe that God is speaking to us and the theme for the 2017 is “Healthy Relationships.” I think the theme that God has for our church throughout the entire year and there will be a grace and a favor on it for you. If you will have the faith to lean into it, lean into that which God is speaking and that which God is doing is this concept of healthy relationships. I think this year, God wants to heal, restore, grow, develop, expand, reconcile, do some amazing things in the relationships in your life.
In fact, at Mark Chapter 12, the teacher of law comes to Jesus and he says, “Jesus, out of all the commandments which is the most important one to God? Out of the hundreds of commandments that God has spoken to us or given to us, which is the most important one?” In other words, he says, “Jesus, what’s the most important thing to God?” And Jesus looks right back at the man and he says, “Well, the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In order words, Jesus says, “The most important thing to God is relationships.” And if relationships are the most important thing to God, then they must be important to us. Relational health is of utmost importance in our lives because the truth is, at the end of the day, the quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your life, probably more than anything else. There is nothing that will bring you more joy than relationships, and there’s nothing that will bring you more pain than relationships.
And if you’re anything like me, you hear this theme of like, okay, healthy relationships for this year, it’s like super exciting like I want my relationships go, and that’s pretty overwhelming because how many of you know people are difficult to be in relationship with? You’re not, but they are, right? I mean people are difficult to be on relationship, but here’s the deal, God’s grace will empower your willingness if you will lean into this concept this year. So when you came in, you got one of these cards. Here’s my hope for you. This is just setting the tone for the year. I’m hoping that you’re going to take this. You’ll keep it in your bible, put in your mirror, your journal, wherever you do with it. And there are six verses that I’m going to challenge you to memorize. Just right out of the gate. We want to see God first, we want healthy relationships, six verses. Ephesians 4:29 through 5 to probably 6 are the most profound relational verses in all of the bible and I really — I want to challenge you to memorize this. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. But only one is helpful for building others up according to their need that it may benefit those who listen.”
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of the Living God with whom who are sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving one another just as in Christ, God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice for God.” If you will memorize those six verses, they will change your relationships this year. And within those six versus, there are five concepts, five actions that if you’ll start applying them to all of your relationships this year, if you’ll lean in to what God wants to do, by the end of next year, your relationships will be in a totally different place. So do you want to walk through those and know what they are? First thing is this, receive from Jesus. If you want to have healthy relationships, you’ve got to receive from Jesus. Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.”
Only loved children can love others, spiritual orphans never can. Until you start receiving from Jesus, you have nothing to give to the people in your life. Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received freely gift.” If I don’t freely receive what Jesus offers, I’m unable to freely give to the world around me. And the truth is, is that most of us struggle in our relationships, not because people are difficult, which they are, let’s all agree with that. We struggle in our relationships because we don’t receive from Jesus. If you are not regularly receiving his grace, his forgiveness, his kindness, and his love, then you don’t have those things to give to other people because you can’t create them. You cannot give what you do not have. That’s why 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.”
I have no love for you if I’m not receiving his love for me. I mean think of the very structure of the cross communicates this for us, you’ve got a vertical beam and you’ve got a horizontal beam. When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t just so we can have healthy relationship with God. He stretched out his arms on the horizontal beam so we can have healthy relationships with each other. But at the end of the day, the horizontal beam always hangs on the vertical beam. And so if the vertical beam is weak or rotten or falling down then the horizontal beam comes crashing down. Your relationships with others will never be better than your relationship with God. If I don’t receive love from Him, I have no love to give to others, and if I don’t feel loved from God, I will never feel loved by others. I mean do you remember the woman at the well? Here’s a woman with some relational baggage. I just say it out. She’s been married five times. She’s living with a six men. And her life is so full of shame because of these broken relationships in her life that she has to draw water from the well in the middle of the day to avoid the rest of the town.
And she’s there and Jesus comes and strikes up this conversation with her. And I just sometimes think about the stories, like unpack them sometimes in your mind, like how would they really play out? And I can just picture this woman, like talking to Jesus about these former husbands, like, I’m sure she had something to say. You know, like husband one, “He could never keep a job,” you know. And then, “My second husband, his mom was always getting involved in our business.” And then the third husband, “He was just a loser.” You know, I mean she — I’m sure she had plenty to say about all the stories of all these men. And yet when you look at the relational carnage in her life and if we look at the relational carnage in our life, sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves, “If I am constantly having relational problems with everyone, maybe I’m the problem.” I don’t actually think it had much to do with those six men. I think it had a lot to do with her because she wasn’t receiving from Jesus. And so Jesus looks at her and he says, “Woman, if you knew the gift of God and you knew who I was, you would ask of me and I would give you springs of living water.”
And for the first time in her life, she was receives from Jesus. He fills her with springs of living water. It bubbles in and out of her and now she has something to give to every relationship in her life for the rest of her life. We have to stop demanding from others what we can only get from Jesus. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. When you expect other people to give you what you can only get from God, you set them up for failure and you set yourself up for disappointment. And if I’m honest with you, I’ve struggled with this and I bet you have too. Like I often expect things from my wife, Colleen, from my friends, from my team, from you. There’s things I expect from you up here. Sometimes these things, we expect from one another that really, at the end of the day, we can only get from Jesus. Like if I need you to make me feel loved, if I need you to make me find my value, if I need you to make me feel significant, if I need you to make me feel secure, I have set you up for failure and myself up for disappointment.
So who are you placing on healthy expectations upon? Because most of the relational tension in our life can be track back to demanding from others what you can only find in God. Only the heart that receives from Jesus is free to love people without expectation of anything in return and that is the only key to healthy relationships. We think of Jesus, we’re talking about like relational challenges. His family thought he was crazy, the disciples, his friends, they abandon him, the pharoses, let’s call them his co-workers, they wanted to kill him. Maybe you have that problem, you know. The crowd, his acquaintances gossiped about him. Judas, his close friend, betrayed him. And yet in the midst of all of that, he was always healthy and always engaged in healthy relationships. How? Because he received everything the Father offered.
So he was free to love everyone else without expectation of anything in return. And so you might ask yourself the question, well, how do I know if I’m actually receiving from Jesus, just look at how you relate to other people. If you make other people earn your forgiveness, it’s because you’re — think you have to earn God’s forgiveness. If you make other people win your love, it’s because you think you have win God’s love. And if you make other people perform for your approval, it’s because you think you have to perform for God’s approval. You always relate to other people the way you believe God is relating to you. So maybe this year, we need to receive more from Jesus and expect less from people. What you think about that? That’s the key to healthy relationships, first action step. Second one is this, you got to go first, okay. You got to go first. Ephesians 5:2, “Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrance sacrifice and offering to God.” Okay, how many of you know this? If you’re going to be in healthy relationships, you’re going to have to go first a lot. Because if you’re waiting on other people, you’re going to be waiting a long time, some of you have been waiting a long time. Go first. Say I love you. Say I’m sorry. Say I was wrong. Say it’s okay. Walk across the hallway, reach across the bed, pick up the phone, be generous, extend kindness. Go first. And I know I know, they were wrong and they should go first but here’s the deal, you can be right or you can be in relationship but you probably cannot have them both. You can be right. Oh, my opinion and my preference and my perspective and technically, you may even be, or you can choose to be in relationship by going first and the choice is yours. Like aren’t you glad Jesus went first for us? Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his love for us, in this while we’re still sinners, Christ came to die for us.” Like the bible literally says we are hostile to God. We were his enemies.
We wanted nothing to do with him. Like we want to descend him back to where he came from. We weren’t even seeking him and yet he went first regardless of how we would choose to respond. That’s why people of the kingdom always go first with others because our king went first with us. In fact, if you’re included in Christ, then in your very nature, is to go first. In your new nature in Jesus, you’re now an initiator, you’re a pioneer, you are a catalyst, you are what the bible calls the sent ones. It’s in your — it’s against your nature to wait for the other person to go first. But what does require? Humility. We hate that because we have our perspective, and our preference, and our pride. But James 4:6 says “God opposes the proud but he’ll give you grace if you humble yourself.” And the other reason we hate going first is because they were wrong and we want to see justice be served of which we forget, James 2:13, God says, “Mercy triumphs over justice.”
God would rather have you go first with mercy than wait around for justice. And some of you have been spending years waiting for justice to be served before you’re willing to go first and extend some mercy. And then amazing in every relationship when we go first, how everything changes. I mean Matthew 5, “Therefore, if you’re offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go, first you go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” He says the highest form of worship is to go first and pursue healthy relationships with the people around you. Maturity is always willing to go first. So maybe this year, we need to stop being so focused on changing them and ask God to start changing us so we can go first, okay? You’re with me on that one? You didn’t like that one either? You won’t like this one even more. Forgive and apologize. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another and forgive one another just as in Christ God forgave you.”
If you’re going to be in healthy relationships, you’re going to be a great forgiver and a great apologizer. And your ability or willingness to forgive is always based on your revelation of how much you have been forgiven. Do you remember the “Parable of the Unmerciful Servant”? Jesus tells us great stories. Says there’s a king and he wants to settle his debts so he calls this man in, man owes him like tens of millions of dollars, unpayable debt. He could work the rest of his life — hundred lifetimes, he could never pay it off. And the king calls him in to settle this debt and the man starts begging for forgiveness and he goes on with his little substory and the king looks at him and he says — he takes pity on him. And he says, “Okay, I’m going to forgive your debt.” Forgives his debt, he couldn’t pay off in a thousand lifetimes. And the man leaves, he walks down the road and he bumps in to a guy that owes him a few hundred bucks. And he says, “Hey, man, you need to give me my few hundred bucks. You need to give to me now.” And the guys does the same thing, “Oh, I’m so sorry, give me time. Please forgive me. I’ll promise I’ll make it up to you.” The guys couldn’t work it off in less than a month.
But the guy says, “No way. Have him arrested, thrown into jail.” And the king servants hear about it and they tell the king and the king brings the man back in and here what he says, he says, “Then the master called the servant in. You wicked servant,” he said. “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you beg me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger, his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. He received forgiveness but he refused to give forgiveness. And so he finds himself in prison. And there’s that really interesting statement, it says, “He’s going to be in prison until he pays back all he owes.” What does the man owe? It is not millions of dollars anymore. You say, yeah — the debt has been cancelled once it comes off the ledger, I forgive your wickedness, remember your sins no more. It can never be reinstated. What does he owe? He owes forgiveness. And the moment he’ll forgive the guy that owes him a few hundred bucks he can walk pretty out of jail.
Unforgiveness is self-imposed bandage. And it isn’t amazing how lots a little offenses in our lives that we don’t deal with that we hold onto, all the sudden become an immovable mountain in our heart. That’s why on Verse 31, I think it’s fascinating, bitterness will always lead you to a lifestyle of sin. Get rid of all bitterness, why? Because it leads to anger, rage, brawling, slander, along with every form of malice. Unforgiveness will literally steal your destiny. And so if you want to walk into the spaces that God has for you this year, you have to choose to forgive others, not for them, so you can get out of your prison. So who do you need to forgive? And here’s the other, how do you need to apologized to? Let’s just call it what it is. We in the church, we stink at apologizing. We talk a lot about forgiveness. If you’re in church services, you hear a lot of talk about forgiveness. We don’t do near enough talking about apologizing.
And the reason I could tell we stink at it because in all the years of doing this, I’m in hundreds of meetings with disgruntled husbands and wives and friends and business partners, and all these — and you sit in these meetings and there’s a group of people, and clearly, this person is clearly wrong, no one would dispute, it and it can be proven in court. I mean you are clearly wrong. And all you have to do is say I’m sorry and the whole thing will be over. But they won’t say I’m sorry. All they want to do is talk about what the other person did, right? You’re so quiet because you never do this in your own life.
And it’s amazing. And I just look at them sometimes I’m scratching my head I’m like, “This is all over if you just say I’m sorry,” but they won’t do it. It’s like Jesus, who says — he says, “Hey, why are you so worried about the speck in your brother’s eye when you have a log in your own eye?” Like let’s get the log out of your eye then you can clearly see to help get speck out of your brother’s eye. Maybe we need to stop telling everybody else what’s wrong with them and start taking some responsibility for what’s wrong with us. Because man — I don’t hear that preached a lot in the church and I don’t see a lot of church people do that. We like to talk about what’s wrong with everybody else. I want to take responsibility of what’s wrong with me because Jesus says he’s already forgiven me and he’ll heal me. And he’ll redeem my relationships if I will be humble and honest enough about it. We just say I’m sorry and not like, I’m sorry.
Come on. Some of my kids try to get away with it. I’m sorry. No. Enunciate, look them in the eye, I’m sorry for, specific, I was wrong. Will you forgive me? Make it right and make restitution if you can. Zacchaeus in Luke 19, it’s a fascinating story. He’s a tax collector meets with Jesus. Jesus has this encounter with him at his house, all on his own. Zacchaeus stands up and says, “Lord, if I’ve cheated anybody at anything, I will give him back four times the amount I stole to him. Whoa. But that’s what a genuine encounter with Jesus does. It changes your future and it also allows you to make right your past. Can you imagine be in the guy in a house somewhere of the next few days? Zacchaeus comes and knocks on the door. God opens the door and Zacchaeus — obviously, he didn’t like Zacchaeus because he’s a tax collector. And Zacchaeus is there to say, “Hey, you don’t even know this. I ripped you off. Here’s four times back what I’ve stolen from you.” “Why are you doing that?” “Because of what Jesus has done for me.” You want to talk about revealing the goodness of God to the people of this world? Blow them away. And by apologizing what you’re doing is you are admitting you need the grace of Jesus too, that you’re a work in progress. And I know it’s hard but the bible tells us that we’re anointed as reconcilers. How are we going to reconcile the world if we can’t even do that with one another? Okay.
So forgive and apologize. Fourth thing is this, intentionally invest. If you want healthy relationships, intentionally invest. Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God.” What does God do? He’s intentional and relational in everything he does. He invests everything he has into his relationships. Romans 8:32, “He, the Father, who did not spare his own son, will he not then in him give us all things?” Like, he gave us Jesus. He gives every — he invested everything he had into his relationships and he advised us to do the same. I’m convinced we’re so good of being filled with good intentions for our relationships. This year, we’re gone on, one of these days we will and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Okay, can I just tell you something? We need to move from good intention to consistent action. So what we need to do? No more good intention. It’s time for consistent action. Start choosing to take your energy, and your finances, and your efforts, and your sacrifice, and your time, and also — and invest it into your relationships.
I mean think of Jesus, three years with 12 guys, vested everything. They shared every meal together, they walked down the road together, they dealt with their failures together. Jesus shared his secrets, he empowered them with his kingdom, and he end up with these amazing relationships. Healthy relationships don’t just happen, okay? So parents, here’s the challenge for you. The bible says train your child in the way they should go. Are you intentionally investing in your child to help them discover who they are, who he is and what they were created to do? Spouses, husbands and wives, the Bible says love and respect one another. Are you intentionally investing the love and respect into your husband, into your wife? Kids, are you honoring your parents so that you will have a good life and it may go well with you? Friends, are you building up and encouraging the people in your life? Employees, are you honoring and submitting to the authority in your life with a level of intentionality the way the bible calls you to?
If you want healthy relationships you have to invest more than you withdraw. In Galatians 6:9 will say, “Do not grow weary in doing good for the proper time you’ll reap a harvest if you don’t give up.” I think most of us give up way too quick on our relationships. Some of you are here today, you’re ready to give up on a relationship in your life. Don’t give up. This is the year of healthy relationships but it’s going to costs some investment out of you and to them. Okay? And then the last thing is this, speak life. Speak life. Verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.” Let’s be honest, that’s probably the hardest one that we’ve talked about yet. Because if we really pull the layers back and look at each other’s lives, I would bet that we have all spoken things that are heartbreaking to the people we love in our lives.
And the reason it says don’t let any, not don’t let some, speak difference there. Reason it says don’t let any is because words are not neutral. They build up or they tear down. They are not neutral. And I’m convinced that reckless words probably destroy our relationships more than anything else. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue is the power of life and death.” You’re made in the image and likeness of God so the words you say have the power to create, heal and restore. They have the power to tear down, destroy and bring destruction. Romans 4:17 says, “God who gives life to things that are not — or gives the life to dead things and calls things that are not as though they were.” God speaks in such a way that his words shape the future. And he’s empowered us to do the same. God calls fatherless Abraham a father. He calls shaky Peter a rock.
He calls fearful Gideon a mighty warrior. Crazy. But he calls things that were not as though they were and he shaped the future. And Abraham became the father of many nations. Peter became the rock for the New Testament church. And Gideon went on to win some mighty victories in the Lord. Speak life. Every night when I took my kids in, there’s two things I do. I remind them or I actually ask them of what we believe and they tell me the same four things every night, they say, “God is good, Jesus has forgiven me, I am loved and everything is possible.” If I do nothing else as a dad, if my kids leave my house and they believe those four things, I’ll count that a win. And then I look at my kids and I say this, every night, I look Trey, my 9-year-old son, in the face and I say, “Trey, you’re like King David. You have a warrior spirit with a tender heart. That’s who God made you and that’s who you’re going to be.” And then I go downstairs and I go find my little girl, my 7-year-old Emma, and I look her in the face and we do the same thing and then I look at her and I say, “Emma, you are a bold leader with a heart of worship.”
Two totally different things to two totally different kids, both made in the image and likeness of God but made very differently. And I have been able to tap into how I see God moving in their life and now I speak it forth over them. I’m calling things that are not as though they were because my son will be a warrior spirit with a tender heart and my daughter will be a bold leader with a heart of worship because I’m going to use my words to shape their future. I want to speak life over them. When was the last time you did that to anyone? And I’ll tell you how you do it. Here’s how you do it because we’re like, “I don’t know how to do it.” Here’s how you do it. Pray about what you want to say, get their attention, look them in the eyes, and build them up. That’s it. That’s it. You can do that. But it’s awkward. By your quietness I know it’s awkward.
It’s uncomfortable, why? Because we don’t do that and they never receive it. Because who’s walking around and telling people life giving things in their life? So Valley Creek Church, let met get your attention. You are a Jesus focus spirit filled life giving people. The grace of God is upon your life. You are walking with Him in a life that is so much bigger and you have even begin to understand. You are on mission with Him, you are generous, you are passionate, you are faithful, you are committed, and you are a people of faith, hope and love and you are the greatest church in the world, and yet you walk with a humility and a dignity to lead other people to Jesus. That’s who you are. That’s how you speak life. You can say, “Well, that’s not me. There’s a person next to me.” You can choose to receive it or not.
See interesting thing about life. That’s why God says, “Hey, today I set before you life and death, choose wisely. Choose life. Have a little bit of faith to believe a little bit different than the people in this world around you, and receive the life that offer you. You see at the end of the day, I can’t promise you that by the end of 2017, you’ll have healthy relationships in your life because you can only control you. Romans 12:18, “As far as it depends on you, live peacefully with all men.” You do everything that God asks you to do. You can’t control them but you would be amazed that what these five things will do to soften the heart of men, because that’s exactly what Jesus did to soften your heart. He received everything from the Father. He always goes first for you. He forgave you to appoint that he doesn’t even remember the failures of your past. He invested his very life and his inheritance to you and all he ever does is speak life.
The words he speaks to you are spirit and they are life. So this is a message to start 2017 trying harder, this is a message to build your faith and say look to Jesus and what he did to create a healthy relationship with you and as you receive that, it will naturally and effortlessly flow out of you into the relationships in the world around you. Healthy relationships. That’s what I really believe that God has for you and for me this year. And so for these next few weeks, here’s what I want to encourage you to do. I want to encourage you to come and have a big faith and open up your heart because the truth is there’s not one of us sitting in this room today that doesn’t need help in the relational dynamics of our lives. I believe that if you will take those verses and you’ll hide them in your heart, if you will lean in to these five kind of descriptions of what healthy relationships look like, then I believe God is going to bring some incredible breakthrough in the days to come.
I believe marriages are going to be to be healed. I believe new friends are going to be created. I believe parents and children are going to be reconciled and brought back together. I believe God is going to do something in every relationship in your life if for these next few weeks you will lean in and let Him do that which He wants to do. This is so important because the quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life. And I believe that God has some great relational healing for us in the days to come. So let met pray for us. Lord Jesus, I just pray that as we step into this summer that you would do that which only you can do in the midst of our relationships. I pray for every person sitting here today. Lord, I pray that you would heal marriages. I pray that you would restore friendships. I pray that you would take those of us that are lonely and you’d start bringing new people into our lives.
I pray for parents and kids that you would reconcile them back with one another. And bosses and employees and neighbors and coworkers and every relational dynamic, Lord, that exist in our lives. We lean in and we believe that you want to do a new and fresh thing in that place. And we know we can’t change them but you can change us. So, Lord, would you change and heal our hearts? Would you help us put you first this summer? Would we turn off our technology and look at each other in the eyes and speak life and listen and be present wherever we are? And would we intentionally invest in the relationships in our lives over these next few weeks? Lord, I pray a blessing over every person of the part of Valley Creek Church that this would be the best summer yet because it would be the healthiest relational summer we have ever had in our lives. We love you, Jesus. Thank you that you are the God of relationships. In your name we pray, amen.