The Road Not Taken

Series: Counterfeit Gods

 “The Tale of Two Roads”

Text: Philippians 2:1-11  // Series: Counterfeit gods

Message @ JRCC – Sunday, Dec 12, 2010


Good morning, friends.  Merry Christmas!  If you are new or visiting with us, welcome here Christmas is a great time to gather together with the JRCC community – we’re going to be having LOTS of fun over the next few weeks and we invite you to join us. 


As we begin our teaching time together this morning, you’ll notice that we have a special object today – I want to thank Dennis Walde for his hard work at sourcing out and building this altar.  I tried to do it at Landscape Depot and they guy laughed at me when I pulled up in my little car with my big idea for a stone altar so special thanks to Dennis for his extra work in building this for us this morning.  Now why in the world might we have an altar here? Well, you’ll remember from a few weeks ago that we talked about the story of Abraham who was called to offer up that which had become most important to him on an altar.  When you read through the Old  Testament, altars have two basic functions – one is for sacrifice.  The second is for solidifying or creating a memory of God’s work in a person’s life.  For example, this past week in your Momentum Journals we were reading the story of Jacob and several times when he met with God and God changed his heart, he built an altar to remember it.  And later on today, you’ll have the same opportunity – to physically act out those two realities. 


But before we get there, I want to explore a few narratives this morning that will help us understand what it is that God might be calling you to today.  Let’s Pray as we begin. 


When I was in late high school, I decided (or perhaps I should say it was decided for me by my teachers) that I needed a bit more culture in my life.  The shows I was interested in and the music I was listening to were not getting me any dates and they likely were not going to get me into any university programs that I was considering so I decided that needed to find some element of high culture that I could relate to and embrace it.  Well, for some strange reason, I didn’t choose Shakespeare or art history, I chose poetry.  I think because it was the easiest to understand.  And I remember my thinking going something like this: Everyone I know who is cultured has a favorite poet…  I should get a favorite poet, whose works I would be familiar enough with to drop references into casual conversation so as to impress people with my knowledge of the world and breadth and depth of culture.  So I began my hunt for a favorite poet.  Now, this was harder than it seems…  Those of you who teach or who majored in English know what I did not and that is that poetry is deceptively simple.  It might seem accessible but there are layers and layers and layers there which the serious student understand and appreciates.  For me, I was just looking for classy but accessible, so I settled on the American poet laurite Robert Frost.  After all, anybody who won a few Pulitzer prizes and who went to school at Oxford couldn’t be that bad, could they?  So I began to read some of his poems.  They are mostly set in rural contexts but they speak to incredibly complex and contemporary questions of meaning, purpose and values.  One of my favorite poems became his work “The Road Not Taken”.  Listen as I read it for you…

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

                         - Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”


Still today I am struck by the simplicity but poignancy of that poem.  Its fairly straightforward – you stand at a crossroads and chose which road to take and whichever road you take has consequences, not only for today and this choice but for all of the choices subsequent to this one…  Way leads on to way…And once you go down one, you are committed. 


In many ways, that poem is a perfect metaphor for our current teaching series, Counterfeit Gods.  We’ve been looking over this season of Advent as we prepare our hearts and lives for Christmas at those things which might supplant or crowd out Christ as our true source of joy, hope, peace, purpose and meaning in life.  We’ve been naming and seeking to give strategies for how you as an individual and we as a community might go about obeying the second commandment: “You must not have any other god but me… 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods”   

So we’ve been identifying some of these things that might sneak in and replace God in our lives.  What have been some of the things we have named?  [Q&A – family, money, greed, debt, fear, love, relationships]  Here’s the tricky thing about that second commandment – literally almost anything has the potential to draw our affection away from God.  Because the very definition of idolatry that we have been working with is taking something is good and turning it into something that is ultimate.  Something that we believe will satisfy us and give us that which only God is intended to give which we are designed as human beings to receive only in and from Him.


And we could name many, many more, I’m sure – next week we will look at the idol of CONTROL as the kids tell us the stories of two kings – Herrod and Nebuchadnezzar.  But this morning, as we prepare for communion together, I want to highlight one idol that might be the most insidious but most subtle of all idols in North America today.  It really goes unaddressed for most of us but this morning we are going to Confront the idol of comfort. [Title slide]


I would suggest to you that One of the ‘gods’ of contemporary suburban culture is the elevation of COMFORT to the place of highest prominence in our decision making


I suggest this because one surefire way you can recognize an idol is that you are willing to rearrange all else in your life around it.  Acknowledge or unacknowledged, it becomes the chief priority to which all others submit.  And for many of us, we are willing to organize and re-organize our lives around comfort above all else.  Now, I’m not talking about comfort in the sense that you have money to pay your Terrasen bill to heat your home, or you can buy enough food so that you don’t go to bed hungry at night…  I’m not saying that it’s a sin to be comfortable, but I am suggesting that comfort has become an idol for us when you come to a fork in the road moment – big or small - and you know that God is asking you to do something and you choose comfort and safety over Godly risk and holy adventure.  When in your heart and your head you begin to ask not ‘what would God want?’ but “what would make me most comfortable?”. 

And here’s the reason why we’ve chosen to include comfort as one of our idols, perhaps THE idol that needs to be dethroned in our lives and in our community…  Because that kind of thinking is profoundly problematic and completely indefensibly biblically for those who claim to follow Jesus.  If you say “I have surrendered my life to Jesus and my forgiver and leader” but you are completely unwilling to go where he sends you or do what He asks of you because you are choosing comfort every time, you have created and nurtured a powerful idol that has a death grip on your heart. 


I have been noticing this in my own life over the past few months…  That when God asks me to be generous with the finances he has entrusted me with, I have 12 reasons why now is not a good time.  I choose comfort over sacrifice.  When God asks me to be bold and step into a conversation with a seatmate on a plane, I grumble inside about how I wanted to read my magazine on this flight.  When people send me nice e-mails or tell me what I great job I am doing, I let it feed something dark inside of me – just like I experienced in High School - that need or desire to impress people and be seen as a respected and successful person.  And what we’ve been driving at in this series is that when we take those things and place them in positions of authority and priory in our lives, they become powerful idols that whenever we stand at those forks in the road, they guide us down paths in our lives away from God.  I want us to look at the Scripture this morning and I’m going to do something that I normally don’t do, and that is argue from the hypothetical or the antithetical subtext in this passage.  If you have your Bibles turn with me to Philippians chapter 2.  I’m going to be reading starting in Philippians 1:29 and it will come up on the side screens when we get to verse 5 of chapter 2…  [Phil 2:5-8]     


I want to ask us to consider, if Comfort was Christ’s highest value, what would Christmas look like?  I’d like to suggest that we would have

A Very Different Christmas Story:

  • What would it look like if Christ had…

–     Clung to equality with God, refusing to take on human form? (2:6)

–     Refused to relinquish divine privilege in the name of heavenly comfort? (2:7a)

–     Come to earth not as a baby but as a conquering hero or comfortable king? (2:7b)

What would the road not taken mean for you and for me?  Our redemption is predicated on Jesus rejecting the road of comfort in favor of the road of obedience which involved suffering, sacrifice and risk. 


You might say ‘well, that’s Jesus, Brad… I don’t have to make those kinds of choices.  Perhaps not.  But the choice between comfort and obedience is around you and I every day.  You have the choice today to write something on the response card or to sit comfortably in your chair and watch others take steps of obedience as they surrender parts of their lives to God that have been holding them back from experiencing grace and peace. 


I want to introduce you to a family who is on this journey of discovery right now.  Darryl and Jodi Bueckert.  The first thing you need to know is that this is WAAAAY outside of Darryl’s comfort zone – as an introvert, sharing with a big group is like #952 on his list of things he’d rather be doing right now, so first of all, thank you for being willing to share your story.  And it’s a story that is in process in this area so neither Darryl nor myself are standing up here as people who have this all figured out.  But Darryl… 

  • Take us back in your story to one of those fork in the road moments around 5 years ago…
  • So what did that look like 2 years ago when you knew God was asking you to make a decision? 
  • So now, what has that felt like?  Fear of the unknown? 


Thanks, Darryl for sharing.  The thing I want you to hear in their journey is that each of us likely have something or several things that we are holding on to in an attempt to pursue comfort.  It might be a dream that you have for your life and God might be asking you to give it up to pursue a greater and grander but infinitely more risky dream that He has placed in your life.  You might be sitting on your comfy couch night after night watching TV and you know that God has asked you to invest your time in more meaningful pursuits and use the gifts you have to serve others.  Maybe your comfort idol is your education or achievements…  You think I’ve built my career or this company to this point, God might be saying “head to Guatemala in 2011 and see how I want you to invest your life”.  Your comfort idol might be your relationships – if you are single, you won’t be content until you get married.  If you are married, you won’t be content until you have kids.  When you have kids, you won’t be content until they turn out perfectly or at least until they leave the house J. 


My sense for us as a community today is that God is calling us to take the road less travelled…  And so for reflection and response, we’re going to express this in a tangible, physical way…  In a few minutes Scot and the worship in Song team is going to come and we’re going to move into a time of communion response.  And as we do so, I want each of us to ask God “If you came and asked me to respond, would there be anything that would hold me back?  Would I say NO to Jesus because I love my current state of comfort more.      

  • The solution is not to love good things less but to love the best thing more

–     “Keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (I John 5:21)

If you are here and you are exploring faith, that step for you might be laying down the title deed to your life…  To say yes to God for the first time.  If that’s you, I don’t’ want you to leave here today without making it right.


If you are early in your Christian

What might God be asking you to lay down so that He could be lifted up in your life?


If you are a person who has been a Christian for a long time, perhaps

Loving Christ Above all else

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should       bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Phil. 2:9-11)



Today is your moment of Choice…

What is God asking you to lay down so that He could be lifted up in your life?


We are going to move into a time of Communion [explain tables, prayer team… prior to taking communion, go to the altar and place your physical object your brought there or write out your commitment of that card].  This is your act of declaration – sacrifice and memory. 


Response Song: Surrender


Perhaps the most prevalent counterfeit idol is that of "comfort" which can prevent us from hearing from and obeying God. Join the people of JRCC on a journey of surrender as we bring things that represent counterfeit idols to the altar and ask God to speak to us about good things which have become ultimate things in our lives.

Speaker: Brad Sumner

December 12, 2010
Philippians 1:29-2:11

Brad Sumner

Lead Pastor

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