This week we are continuing our series Simple Words. Last week, we experienced the challenge of saying no, but saying yes also brings about new opportunities and challenges!
We are often really good at and therefore used to saying yes. We say yes to spending time with our families and friends, yes to projects at work, and yes to new hobbies. Saying yes is easy in our day-to-day lives, but sometimes our ease with saying yes doesn’t actualize in our faith journeys. When God prompts us to say yes, we often say no.
This week we are exploring ways we can be formed in our faith by saying yes to things that God prompts us to. Looking at five ways to say yes, we will be challenged to say yes to something this week!
- I will read through the promises of God and claim them in my own life.
- I will be God’s yes to the people in my life this week.
- I will say yes to people with my words, eyes and body language.
- I will include people this week, making way for them.
- I will serve this week as if I’m serving the Lord.
- I will give myself fully to the work of the Lord.
- I will live with joy this week because every one of God’s promises is yes.
Aright, this is week two of our series — Simple Words that have the power to change your life. We started last week with the word no because so many of us find our lives so crammed full that we just need to make space for God. I talked to a number of people this week who’ve said it’s actually difficult to say no. Because we live in this strange world where there’s pressure to say yes. And that’s why the apostle Paul said, “Don’t be conformed to this world.” — Don’t cave in to the pressure to say yes, especially when it comes to cramming your life so full that you don’t have space in your life for God. So we need to learn how to say no. But it can’t just be no. That would kill your spirit. You were made for yes. So we turn to yes today. When you love someone, part of what happens is you want to say yes to them. * If a parent/child relationship is working right and a child approaches a parent with, “Can I go on this adventure? Can I have permission? Can we do this together? Can I have this thing my heart desires?” — a parent loves to say yes. You might have to say no sometimes, but you love saying yes. * If a friend comes to you, “Can we spend some time together? Can I tell you this secret I’ve never told anyone? Can I share this burden with you?” — friends love to say yes to other friends. And the reality is — we carry around a yes or a no in our hearts toward people. We all experience this. When someone has a yes in their heart for you — * They love to encourage you. * They love for you to grow. * They love for you to soar. * They believe in you. * They see the best in you. * They’ll confront you sometimes. * They might challenge you in a way that’s painful, but you know it’s precisely because they love you. You know they want you to be at your best. On the other hand, I’m sure you know what it’s like to have someone who carries a no in their heart toward you. That just has a way of wounding us. When there’s someone with a no in their heart toward you — * They love to criticize you. * They actually look for ways to find fault in you. * They want to rain on your parade. * They actually don’t want you to soar. We communicate this to each other all the time (whether we intend to or not) in ways that are so subtle. You’re in a car, and there’s a car in the other lane in the intersection. You wonder, “Can I go? Yes? No?” You can feel a yes or a no through the windshield. We communicate it in such amazingly instinctive ways, and it leads to this real important question at a deep level — Do you think of God as having a yes in his heart for you or a no in his heart for you? It’s a real basic question that has to do with the nature of existence, the nature of the universe — Is there a God, and is he a God who says yes? Or is he, at heart, this kind of finger-wagging, head-shaking, disappointed in you God who says no? Now this concern lies behind one of the great statements I think not just in the Bible but in all of human literature, all of human thought. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth. They’re not quite sure what’s in Paul’s heart toward them. He had written them a painful letter previously. If you’ve ever read through the first letter to Corinth, it’s quite painful. Then he had planned to go visit them, and he had to change those plans. So they were left wondering, “Is Paul fickle? Is he a yes or is he a no for us?” He writes to them about this directly, but not to ground it in his own character but actually to say, “Our relationships ought to be grounded in the character and the heart of God.” This is what he writes: But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:18-20 “For no matter how many promises God has made.” — How many promises has God made? An awful lot of promises. By one count in the Bible, there are 7,457 promises God has made. * Paul didn’t say, “A lot of them are yes.” * Not, “Many of them…” * Not even, “Most of them…” Every one of them is yes in Christ Jesus. God has a yes in his heart for you. < I doesn’t matter what your life is like right now. The circumstances don’t matter. * Your mother may have said no. * Your father may have said no. * Your kids may say no. * Your boss may say no. * Your therapist may say no. * Your coach may say no. * The IRS man may say no. * Your dog may say no. * Your cat will say no. * That college may say no. * That job, that company, may say no. * That guy, that girl may say no. All of God’s promises (7,457) are yes in Christ Jesus. * God, will you save me? Yes. * God, will you forgive me? Yes. * God, will you cleanse me? Yes. * God, will you let me start over? Start again? Yes. * God, will you give me strength? Yes. * God, will you give me guidance? Yes. * God, will you give me wisdom, because I don’t know what to do? Yes. * God, will you give me the ability to forgive this person and triumph over resentment? Yes. * God, will you be with me every day of my life until I die? Yes. * God, after I die, will you take me to Heaven with you where I will experience life the way you intended it to be — no sorrow or pain or tears, just unceasing joy. God says, “Yes, yes, yes!” All God’s promises are yes in Christ Jesus, and that’s the yes you and I are invited to live in every day. And it’s quite a staggering statement of the significance of Jesus. It’s an amazing thing that Paul, who was raised as a Jewish man to believe in one God, said there is this man, Jesus Christ, and the significance of his life is something so profound that all of the promises of God find their yes in his life, in his teaching, in his death, and in his resurrection. All of God’s promises are yes. So God has a yes for you. There are 7,457 fabulous promises. Read through them. Savor them. Treasure them. Immerse yourself in them. Paul says as a matter of sober consideration — for people to think real deeply about the fact that they all are going to come true. They are all yes because of Jesus Christ. Now, there’s a second yes in this passage. All God’s promises, no matter how many they are, are yes in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20 So, “the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” This is the second yes. There’s the yes God says to you, and then there can be the yes you say to God. Now Paul introduces a second word for yes here. The first one he uses is kind of a non-descript word. In Greek, the word nai was the word yes. Here for our yes back to God, he uses a variant. This is the Hebrew word for yes, and it’s the word amen. Now unfortunately in our day, most people know this word. It’s become kind of a churchy word, kind of a pious word, kind of a cliché word. People might get tired of it sometimes. That’s not the way it would have sounded to the people in Paul’s day. In Israel, they loved this word. It was like yes on steroids. You could translate it — * “So be it.” * Or, “That’s just the way we want it.” * Or, “I’m down with that.” * Dallas Willard wrote about how you could translate it, “Whoopee!” — “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Whoopee!” In Israel, they loved that word. In fact, the rabbis used to say any time you heard a blessing, even if you were not in church, when God’s goodness was being evoked on someone, you were obligated by the Torah, by the Law, to respond — “Amen! Let it be so! Just the way we want it. I love it that way.” When I was a kid growing up in a Baptist church, we used to have a little section in the church. It was called the “amen corner.” It was for people who would get so fired up about how good God was, about how fabulous it was to live in the promises of God, that sometimes they couldn’t hold it in, and they would say, “Amen!” Now we’re not Baptist, so we don’t have an amen corner. Our church is much more like going to a high-class auction where you just give a subtle nod every once in a while, kind of raise your eyebrow. — “I’m down with that.” Back in Paul’s day, that word amen was a fabulous word. What he says is — because all God’s promises are yes in Jesus to us, we can make our lives a great, “Yes! Amen! Let it be so! Whoopee!” back to God. That’s what we’re called to do. What I want to do in the time that’s left in this message is to walk you through some ways to do this. Now mostly what God is concerned about is people. What God loves more than anything else is people, and he’s placed us in this world and said yes to us not primarily just for our own sake but so we can be a conduit of God’s yes, God’s love, God’s power, God’s goodness to other people. This is a strange thing about human relationships — every time you’re with someone, you’re giving them a little yes or you’re giving them a little no. We feel that all the time. It’s because we’re people with wills, and we either will the good (we will a blessing; that’s yes), or we will the bad for someone. That’s a no. How do I make my life a yes for God and for other people? I want to arrange this around a statement that was written by Dallas Willard. It’s from his book Renovation of the Heart. But every contact with a human being should be one of goodwill and respect, with a readiness to acknowledge, make way for, or assist the other in suitable ways. This is God’s plan for a life on earth. There is no such thing as a neutral encounter. There’s no such thing as an encounter you have with someone in which God isn’t interested. — But every contact with a human being should be one of goodwill and respect, with a readiness to acknowledge, make way for, or assist the other in suitable ways. -Dallas Willard So I want to talk about these yeses to other people. And the first one Dallas Willard mentions is: 1. The yes of goodwill Again, at your core is your will, and your will is to will the good for every single person. The writers of Scripture talk about this a lot. Paul commands the church at Thessalonica: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Did you know that all the time — you’re either building someone up, or you’re tearing them down with your words, with your face, with your body language? It’s happening all the time. You can’t help it. You’ll have people in your life this week at work or at school, and maybe you’ll notice they’re discouraged about something. * You can be God’s yes to them. * You can come alongside them, and you can encourage them. * You can breathe life into them. * You can challenge them. There’s going to be someone at home, and maybe there’s something going on that no one else will have noticed. Maybe they had a difficult day. Maybe they had a difficult interaction. * You can be God’s yes to them. * You can listen. * You can be there. * You can care for them. There’s going to be someone at our church. There are people who go to church, and awful things are going on in their lives. * Maybe they’re suffering through loss. * Maybe they’re going through a divorce. * Maybe they’re carrying around terrible guilt. * Maybe they have big financial problems. And maybe they don’t know — “Is it okay if I tell someone about this?” They sneak into the church, and they just sit there. And then they leave. You could be the person who looks someone in the eye and makes a difference in them. Maybe you’ll be riding with an Uber driver, and they need someone to encourage them. Maybe there’s someone behind the counter at a grocery store who needs God’s yes from you. You can do this. This is the yes of goodwill. It’s fundamental. We’re to be people whose wills have been remade from God so that we walk through life with a will that radiates goodness. So God’s yes flows through us to other people. Alright, we’ll talk about the second yes to other people in just a moment. Announcements Alright, the first yes to other people is the yes of goodwill. The second yes is — 2. The yes of acknowledging people This is just the power of acknowledging someone. Paul writes this to the church at Rome: Greet one another with a holy kiss. Romans 16:16 This is what we do every week when we gather in person on Sunday mornings (except for the kiss part, so don’t get too excited). It’s really interesting. Paul didn’t say, “Pass on my greetings to the people in Rome.” He said, “Greet each other.” In other words, “Be a people who greet one another. Acknowledge each other.” The idea is just this — You walk down the street, or down the sidewalk, or down the halls where you work or go to school. There will be other people coming at you. You can greet them. You can acknowledge them. You can look them in the eye and let them know with a word, and with your face. It’s real simple — just greet them. Just, “I welcome you into my life.” That’s a yes. Or you can look away. Just avoid contact. Just shut other people out. And I have to tell you — I know how easy it is to do that. I’m an introvert, which means it’s easy for me to say no with my body language. But Paul says in the church, in God’s community, “Greet one another. Say yes to one another… with your words and your eyes and your body language” This is a small thing, but a little practice for me is when I’m done with a sermon, I’ll walk out into the courtyard. And as I see people I’m going to say, “Yes, I’m glad you’re here.” It’s just a little discipline after our service where I get to acknowledge people. If you want a challenge on this one — as you’re going throughout your day, acknowledge people no one else acknowledges. I know someone who got McDonald’s gift certificates. So when he sees people who need money (people who are experiencing homelessness or someone who’s asking for help) — so many times, we just look away. We try to avoid eye contact. Well, this guy says, “I want to talk to you. I want to tell you my name and find out what your name is and treat you like a human being.” That’s the yes of acknowledging people. The next yes to people is — 3. The yes of making way We live in a world where people just want to make their own way. Paul put it like this: In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4 Every encounter I have with someone is an opportunity to say, “You go first.” If you’ve ever been on a plane, you may have noticed a pretty common phenomenon. When the plane lands, it will taxi for a while on the ground, and then it pulls into the gate. When it gets into the gate and it’s just about to come to a stop — have you ever noticed what people do? They start unbuckling their seat belts and lean forward in their seats so they can get up as soon as that bell sounds. So they can step into the aisle and get in a position ahead of the guy in the row across from them because, “God forbid that guy step in the aisle ahead of me, and then he wins the ‘Who can get off the plane first?’ game. I may be 10 seconds later getting to my car than I otherwise would have been. How awful that will be.” Next time you’re on a plane, watch for this. People are like Pavlov’s dogs waiting for the bell to go off so they can beat each other off the plane. The last couple of flights I’ve been on, I’ve just waited for the bell to go off and then just sat there — “Would you like to go ahead of me?” I know it’s absurdly small, but when you’re at an intersection and there’s someone in the crosswalk, “Would you like to go? Go ahead. God bless you.” We say no instead of yes for such stupid reasons. When you’re at the grocery store, “Would you like to go ahead?” < I’ll tell you another little picture of this — In conversations, do I make way for people? In my life, in my heart, do I make way? Several years ago, I was on a trip with a small group of guys to Kenya with Ray Johnston, the senior pastor of Bayside Church in Roseville. During one of the meals, I was talking with Ray, and there was another guy who wanted to join our conversation. I could tell. I could see him out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t want him to join us. I wanted Ray to myself. He was an important guy, important to me. I didn’t want to make way. This person felt kind of needy to me, so I just pretended like I hadn’t seen him and just kept the conversation with Ray and me. Well, Ray saw this guy, and he immediately turned to him and invited him into our conversation. Then when Ray was talking to a group a little later, he talked about that as a little picture of how in Christian community we make way for each other. He said, “Matt and I were having this conversation, and this guy right here wanted to be a part of it. We could see that, so we immediately made way for him in our conversation. Didn’t we, Matt?” I said, “Oh yes, that’s what we did.” That’s the yes of inclusion. The yes of, “You go first.” The yes of making way. The next yes Dallas Willard mentions is: 4. The yes of assisting This is the yes of just serving people. This is what made the early church great. And it’s such a paradox. In God, the great yes is what looks to be so insignificant. Paul would say things like, “Serve one another humbly in love.” This is mostly what a church does — serve one another humbly in love. So many people around Blue Oaks do this in such wonderful ways. We have people who serve faithfully on Sunday morning so we can gather together as a church. And we couldn’t do what we do on Sundays if it weren’t for those people. And we need more people to step up and serve on Sunday morning, so if you’re interested in serving let us know. A number of people stayed after church a few weeks ago to pack meals for the homeless population in Oakland. They made 500 meals. A lot of you were involved with that. This is just the yes of serving. When you go to work, our world has enough people who work with a no in their heart. It’s such a life-giving thing to watch someone work with a yes. I was at a restaurant a while ago, and it was super busy. There were tons of people waiting for a table. I was commenting on that to the hostess. I thought she would say something about how hard it was and how much pressure she was under. Instead, she stopped, gave me a big smile, and said, “The place is on fire, and I love it.” pause> There’s something so contagious about someone who goes to work with a yes. When you go to work, whether that’s volunteer or for money; whether you think you have a really important job or whether it feels like drudgery; high status, low status — Paul says, “Don’t you understand that you’re working for God?” God sees what you’re doing. God delights in it when you do it well. He says: Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 That’s a promise. Alright, one more yes, and this one is all-encompassing. This is a yes to God. It’s the great yes to life. 5. The yes of joy We’re invited into this not because your circumstances are good, not because you’re smart, not because you’re rich, not because you’re young, not because you’re untouched by suffering, cancer, or sorrow, but because all God’s promises are yes in Christ. That’s the reality in which we live. That’s the ground on which we stand. All God’s promises are yes in Christ. Amen! Whoopee! This is in the Old Testament. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart. 2 Samuel 6:16 What’s foreshadowed here — the presence of God, by the ark of the covenant coming — has happened in Jesus. In Jesus now God is as close to me and to you as the air you breathe. And you can respond in one of two ways — with a yes or a no. * You can be David or you can be Michal. * You can dance or you can despise. I say you choose to dance. You have this one life, and all God’s promises are yes. I say that’s cause for dancing. The writer of Scripture says David was not only dancing, he was leaping. Which makes me wonder, when was the last time you were so full of joy and life and gratitude to God that you jumped up and down, that you just had to express with some measure of freedom — whatever freedom looks like for you — a heart that is on fire with the goodness of God? Well, David was that passionate about God. He had this incredibly free heart. He was just jumping up and down. And David said in 2 Samuel 6: I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. 2 Samuel 6:21-22 I think part of why I love this so much is I grew up in a Baptist church. In Baptist churches, people are not wild and reckless with their hearts. They tend to be cautious and self-protective. There’s not much leaping going on. And I just love to see David give his heart to God in complete freedom. So this week, let’s express the kind of joy David expressed — whatever that looks like for you. Maybe you need to write the word yes down on a card and put it on the nightstand next to wherever it is you sleep. So that no matter what is going on in your life, when you wake up in the morning, you’re reminded to say yes to life, yes to people, yes to your work, and yes to God. So you’re ready to dance. * Do this not because it’s a good thing to have a positive mental attitude, although of course it is. * Do this not because it makes things pleasant for you, although of course it will. * Do this not because your circumstances are going great, because maybe they’re not. * Do this because God has made 7,457 promises, and every single one of them is yes in Christ Jesus. * Every single one of them finds their fulfillment in what it is that Jesus lived when he was on this earth. * Every single one of them is explained by the teaching Jesus gave to us. * Every single one of them was paid for when Jesus went to a cross and gave up his life and shed his blood for our forgiveness. * Every single one of them was guaranteed on the third day after his body had been placed in the grave, when the stone was rolled away, and he got up again. I know the Bible doesn’t say it, but I’m pretty sure, when Jesus got out of the tomb, he was saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I’m pretty sure, when he came out, he wasn’t just walking. He was dancing. That’s why we say yes to God. That’s why we dance. And that’s why the Bible ends the way it does. A lot of people have never read the final words of the Bible, but they’re glorious words. There’s a reason why the Bible ends the way it does. This is what John writes: He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” [That is, he who bears witness to these promises. That is, Jesus who came up from the tomb.] He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” [It may not look like soon when you suffer, when you struggle, when people live and die. I understand that, but in light of eternity in the eyes of God, it will be the blink of a moment.] “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21 Let it be so. Yes! Whoopee! That’s the way the Book ends. So this is the week of yes. When you wake up tomorrow, when you see people, when you work, when you rest, when you laugh, when you cry, when you live, make every moment a, “Yes! Amen! Let it be so! Whoopee!” to God. Alright, let me pray for you. Would you bow your heads right now and bring before God whatever no you have — that disappointment, that relationship, that heartache, that hurt, that loss. Just hear God’s yes over you. Just immerse yourself in the yes of God. The God who says, “I love you.” The God who says, “I’m so delighted that you’re living on this earth.” The God who says, “I thought you up. Don’t you know that? I made you just the way you are. I love you just the way you are. My Son died on a cross for you so one day you will be just the way I designed you.” God, we say to you now our great yes. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA