One Question as the Guide to Christian Living

Andy Stanley

Do you know who I hate? I shouldn’t say it that way… How about this?

Do you know who I have a hard time not hating?

People who hurt or mistreat my children.

I’ve been lucky, I have three kids.
It’s that teacher who was unfair. That coach who didn’t play my son. Some of my kids friends who would take advantage of one of my kids. Anybody that mistreats my kids.

There is no point in trying to make peace with me if you’ve hurt one of my kids. You can buy me gifts, give me money, sing me songs, praise my holy name. There is nothing you can do for me to compensate mistreating one of my kids.

The best thing you can do for me is to show honor to one of my kids. To show love to them.

In a baseball tournament years ago my son, Andrew was up to bat. It was one of those games where “it was the most important game in the world,” you know? A fastball hit Andrew in the shoulder. The umpire called him back to the plate, claiming Andrew had leaned into the pitch. A woman who attends our church stood up, grabbed the fence and started screaming at the umpire. I love that woman because she stood up for my kid. And if you stand up for my kid you stand up for me.

Today is Part 4 of our series. The premise is The arrival of Jesus signaled the end of the temple model and the beginning of something brand new.
The problem is our Western version of Christianity has been shaped to world views and the temple model. It’s a blend of the temple model and Christianity.

The Temple Model – An ancient form of religion

  •  Sacred places
  • Sacred texts
  • Sacred men
  • Sacred followers (superstitious, scared, stupid)

The temple model is still alive in our world today.

The problem with the temple model is that Jesus came along and introduced something brand new. In about the Fourth Century, Christianity actually became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire and when that happened a temple model approach was developed in Christianity. And it happened again through reformation. Suddenly, the Jesus movement was sprinkled into the temple model and we call this Christianity.

Jesus started something brand new

  • New covenant with God and man
  • New command as a filter for all other commands
  • New ethic to determine behavior
  • New movement, referred to the church

When we blend the temple model and what Jesus brought new it holds us back. It holds us back as individuals and as a church.

For example: If you feel more guilty about missing mass or church than mistreating someone at work then you have a mixture of temple model in your thinking. Being somewhere to hear a sacred thing is not more important than how our treat people.

Another example: If you sit around and think about how close you can get to sin without thinking then that’s temple model thinking.

Example: If you believe there is a ritual that makes you right with God and removes your responsibility to make restitution to someone you have harmed then that’s temple model thinking. There are no hoops to jump through to remove your obligation to make restitution.

At the heart of this, and it’s subtle, but it is very very very important. At the heart of the temple model it’s about you and me.
The temple model is YOU centered. The question at the core is, “What must I do or believe to make things and keep things right between God and me?”
At the end of the day, that type of religion is all about me. That means you are at the center, not God. For some of us, this is how we pray. It can filter into how you give or obey God’s Word.

“I really need to get back in church.” Well who is that about? I, I, I, I. That’s temple thinking,

Temple thinking gravitates to rules and rituals. Always. This leads to the question, “What exactly must I do to make things and keep things right between God and me?” A great question initially but eventually you need to move beyond that. Because Jesus taught that once you place your faith in Christ you are fine with God and God is fine with you. So instead of trying to make God tune into you is temple thinking and will not lead you to maturity.

Temple thinking leads to loophole thinking.
It leads to exception-to-the-rule thinking.
Ultimately it’s about me getting what I want without losing God’s favor.

Rituals then become escape clauses. That leads to hypocrisy. It’s why many people don’t like the church! As long as you think temple there will be a point along the way when you are at the center. It’s a very subtle form of self-centered religion that Jesus has invited you to abandoned completely.

The Jesus model is centered on the you beside you.

If you’re a Democrat, it means the Jesus model centers on the person to the right of you. And if you’re a Republican, it means the Jesus model centers on the person to the left of you. And if you’re a racist, it centers on the you that you don’t want to have anyone to do with. It’s centered on the you that you would call your enemy. Following Jesus means leaving what it is to embrace all about you and embracing all about the person who is beside you.

If you take this one idea and use it through the filter which you read the New Testament, the entire New Testament will come alive for you in a way you have never seen before. Because through the New Testament we have been invited to love people the way Jesus loves us. That’s what it’s all about.

It centers around one commandment:

John 15:12NASB
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

How many commandments are there, ten?
No! One!

Galatians 5:6 NIV
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 5:14 NIV
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This represents a complete departure from temple thinking. A complete 100% departure. Not the best of both.

Do you know why you should tell the truth?
Not because it’s in the Bible. You see, temple thinking says tell the truth because the text tells the truth. The Jesus model says you should tell the truth because when you lie you hurt the person you lie to. When you lie you are covering yourself at someone else’s expense. Whatever is best for you is secondary to what is best for me. The reason Christians are not to lie isn’t because the Bible says so. It’s because we are not to look out for ourselves before others. Tell the truth because you love people, not because you want God to love you.

Do you know what we should be generous?
Not so that you can get a return on your giving. It’s because when you are generous, it helps the person you are being generous to. That’s the reason Christians are supposed to be the most generous people in the world!

Do you know why you shouldn’t talk badly about someone?
It’s not because the Bible says you shouldn’t gossip. That’s temple thinking. The reason you don’t gossip is because it hurts someone else. It undermines their integrity in the minds of other people. When you gossip you are elevating yourself at someone else’s expense. Even if it wasn’t in the Bible, you shouldn’t gossip because you are smart enough to know it hurts other people.

Do you know why you shouldn’t pressure your girlfriend sexually?
Not because the Bible says sex is for marriage. Not because “it’s going to be bad for a person later on.” It’s because if you pressure someone to do something they don’t want to do then you create regret for them. As Jesus followers we are not supposed to create regret for another person. Imposing your will on someone else isn’t loving your neighbor as yourself, it’s loving yourself at the expense of your neighbor.

Further, do you know why you should never play fast and loose with sex?
It’s not because of consequences or a punishment. The primary reason is that if you do anything to diminish a person’s sexual experience later then you have sinned against them. Jesus followers don’t sin against other people and they don’t hide their sin against other people by whitewashing it as sin against God. “But what if it’s consensual?” Well, what if your niece or nephew calls you and says, “Hey my friend and I are going to poke each other’s eyes out with a butter knife. But don’t worry! It’s consensual!” You’d say NO! You don’t hurt you and you don’t hurt another person.

Do you need a verse for every single thing? Do you really need a study to understand what it means to not create regret for anybody else? You know what’s good for you and for another person, do we really need to go any deeper than love your neighbor as yourself?

Here’s the bottom line: The New Testament imperatives are examples of how to demonstrate your love for God by loving others.

God didn’t give us an example of everything because he didn’t need to.
It’s all about loving others. That’s why people get in a tizzy when they look for loopholes.

Jesus said something extreme. He said that the entire Old Testament hung on the two ideas (1) love God and (2) love your neighbor.

“But Andy, aren’t you dumbing down the teaching? You’re essentially saying this is like a big Woodstock for Christians. Get along… love one another… be Christian hippies…”

Get this: The Jesus model is less complicated but far more demanding.

At the center of the Christian faith, people believed in a man who died covered in his own blood and in the saliva of other men. That’s how far this goes. That’s what this looks like.

It is easy to find a place to hide in the temple approach to Christianity.
“I don’t know what that means…”
“Jesus didn’t say that…”
“I don’t think that’s a sin…”
“We don’t know what the text says…”

In temple religion you will always find a loophole. You will not find a loophole in these words:

Philippians 2:5 NIV
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Luke 6:27 NIV
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you

Luke 6:36 NIV
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

This is why the Christian faith is so spectacular! Because there is no place to hide when you follow Jesus. There are no workarounds.

In most cases, we intuitively know the answer to the question, “What does love require of me?”
You can hide in the temple and loophole your way out in the temple.
But we know the answer to that question is the essence of following Jesus. If you think it’s simple, easy, or watered down then remember that when your Heavenly Father answered this question it cost him his son. And when Jesus answered this question, it cost him his life.

Jesus has invited us to follow him. We simply get to answer the question, “What does love require of me?”

Can you imagine what would happen in our families if we just did that? In our relationships with spouses, brothers and sisters. Just run your family through the filter of that question. What if our city paused and thought about that question for a month?

Here’s the part I could bore you to tears with, but it’s so fascinating to me. In the First Century there were no texts or anything. There are kids on the streets and the church would come together and all they had were the teachings of Jesus. They knew they were to love one another. Imagine a world in which people were critical of us because of what we believed but were envious of us because of the way we love one another. That is why Christianity survived the first 300 years. That is what we are called to do. And I believe it can happen again.

You might think this is messing with the way you see the world. You may think I am missing something. You may think I have left God out of the equation and made it all about people. You may think I am pulling you down into this world. That’s a good question, and Jesus answered it.

I hope this bothers you and I hope it has the impact on you that it did to the people in the First Century. Jesus taught:

Matthew 25:31-39 NIV
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

Who gets the most out of your spiritual moments with God? Those times of worship, study and visiting Holy places.
You do.
Those are good things, but it’s not what it’s about. The Jesus model centers on the you beside you.

Your devotion to God is illustrated, demonstrated, and authenticated by your love for others. Not your love. That invisible spiritual thing that we all love (and we should) not that.

Did I mention that if you mistreat one of my kids that all of the sucking up in the world won’t pay back for it? Did I mention that the best way to honor me really has nothing to do with me? Whatever you do for one of them, it’s like you are doing it for me.

It’s kind of like when Jesus said to pray you say, “Our Father who art in heaven…”

What if it’s it that simple? What if it is as simple as the question “What does love require of me?”
The harder you are to love the more honoring it is to my Father in heaven. What if we just got that right?
It will change your family. It will change your community. It has the power to change the world.

Sermon Notes in your inbox every Monday. Get free updates:

This message is from Andy Stanley
North Point Community Church
Title: “What Love Requires”
Series: “Brand: New”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.