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Smoke & Mirrors: Lies & Labels

Smoke & Mirrors  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The key to a magician’s act is misdirection of our attention. They try to get us to focus on the smoke and mirrors, distraction our focus so that we don’t see something important so that we don’t see what is happening right before our eyes. Sometimes the things right in front of us are the hardest things to see. There are things you see everyday that you are blind to. The labels we receive and take to heart can become a focal point which distracts us from the truth. Believing lies about ourselves and others can carry people either toward or away from Jesus. Labels may discribe you but your identity in Christ defines you. Christ died to heal us at the source not just treat our symptoms.

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Focus Scripture

Focus Scripture Slides here

2 After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. 2 So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. 3 Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. 4 They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”

6 Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, 7 “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”

8 Jesus immediately recognized what they were discussing, and he said to them, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? 9 Which is easier—to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’? 10 But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins—he said to the man who was paralyzed, 11 “Get up, take your mat, and go home.”

12 Jesus raised him up, and right away he picked up his mat and walked out in front of everybody. They were all amazed and praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

Orientation: Smoke & Mirrors

Smoke & Mirrors Slide here
We are in week three of a four part series entitled Smoke & Mirrors: Mind Games that Blind Us. The premise behind this series is based in the ability of a magician or illusionist act is the art of misdirection. If a magician can draw the focus of our attention onto something momentarily. This provides a window to trick us or create open space through which they can trick our eyes or other senses into thinking something magical has happened. Many of these artists are so good that they can perform their tricks right in front of us and we still don’t see what is actually happening. Sometimes the things right in front of us are the hardest things to see. There are things, or mind games, we see and perform everyday yet we are blind and unable to recognize it until your focus is directed to it.
Smoke & Mirrors Slide here
That is what we are doing in this series, we are drawing our attention to the mind games we play on ourselves and others. In the previous two sermons we have explored The Comparison Delusion and The Walk of Apathy. Today we move into mind game I am calling Lies, Labels & Other Card Tricks. I would be willing to bet that just about if not all of you have seen a card trick. It usually goes like this, the magician invites you pick or think of a card. You pick a card. You are told to remember you card and then put it back in the deck. Then mysteriously, they pull a card back out of the deck after doing shuffle and ask you if the card they have selected was the card you picked or where thinking about. My personal favorite is when the magician takes the card has you identify it and then proceeds to tear it up in to many pieces only to have it reappear full healed and returned to the deck. Have you seen that trick?
Where have we been?
Where have we been?
Where are we going?
Where are we today? Lies, Labels & Other Card Tricks

What Card Are You Holding?

Card Slide Here
I want to do something similar with you this morning. I want you to make a mental note of three words that you would use to describe yourself. We are talking about are labels. A label is a phrase that is used to describe a person or a thing. I am sure that they will be positive because if you have someone next to you I would invite you to share those words with them. Here I will give you an example of what I mean. I am a Mother, Pastor and Wife or I like to fish, craft and dabble in graphic design. Somebody might be thinking “I am tall, dark and handsome.” Take a moment and think what would I tell someone about myself and write it down if you can.
LONG PAUSE
Did you do it? Good!!
Now let’s do it again but this time I want you to think about three words you use to describe yourself or others have used to describe yourself in a less than positive way or in a way that you received in a less than positive way. Here are some that come to my mind when I think of myself and I know you will laugh. But truthfully, I have at one time or another thought of myself in these ways and can at time struggle with clinging to these labels. Some I had given to myself but at times other had given them to me is some shape or fashion through words, actions, apathy or comparison. These labels are stupid, fat, ugly, a failure and unloveable. Maybe you have some of the same labels but make sure you write these down because I want to do an exercise with you later in this sermon. OKAY!? Okay!
These labels are
Which ones are placed on you?
Whether we are aware of it or not, labels are powerful. When I started grade school I wanted to fit in with others and have friends. A few of girls were talking about being Girl Scouts and after hearing them talk and receiving an invitation, I desperately wanted to be a Girl Scout. Here is the thing though. Girl Scout membership was costly because you had to have a uniform and participate in activities outside of school. We didn’t have a lot of money in those days. So I suspect that was part of the reason my father said, “no”. After a lot of tears and lamenting, my parents gave in and let me join. Once I got there, I decided it wasn’t really something I enjoyed. I think I went to 2-3 meetings and then I quit. I look back on those early years and realize that because I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be. I was very susceptible to the labels of the world. I didn’t have an identity within myself and I was looking to my surroundings and thought that wearing the very prominent label of Girl Scout would tell the world that I was honorable, like-able and in the eyes of a first grader, fashionable. I was seeking an identity, a label. (Laughing)
Proverbs Slide here
Which ones do you belief?
Labels can be costly or freely given and whether we are completely aware of it or not. We have or at some point of our lives pursued the possession of a label or we have tried desperately to get rid of one we were given or are believing to be true. Labels can have value but they also can communicate value. We all carry labels around in life. Some are positive but many are negative. Proverbs which is a book of wisdom says this, “Keep your heart with ALL VIGILANCE. For from it flow THE SPRINGS of LIFE.” This means the labels that we take to heart and mind should be weighed with great discernment before we believe them. We must sort through the lies we believe and the look for the truth.
The problem with labels is is you wear it for too long, it stops describing your past and begins to shape your future. The longer you wear a label, the more it stops describing where you have been and the more it begins to determine where you are headed. Misdirected focus or attention has to capacity to blind us to the whole reality of our past and trick us into believing lies which can shape our future. False labels can be positive but lead to negative consequences in in lives of people too. The labels we place upon others also changes the way we treat them even those we love the most.
There was a study done with students and these researchers took a look at these students and here's what they determined. They determined if you take this child who's in school and you label them slow and nothing else changes, you don't change the way you teach them, you don't change their home life, nothing else changes but you label them slow, their school performance will actually decrease if they're aware of that label. If you take the same child and you label them advanced and nothing else changes, their school performance will actually increase. Why? Because labels are powerful, aren't they? Labels are powerful and we know it.
Here's how that looks for you and me. If I feel labeled as a failure, maybe because of what happened in school or what happened at work or what's happened in relationships in my life, if I feel like a failure, I'm afraid to try new things because if I try new things and it doesn't work out, it's only confirmed what I've been labeled, which is a failure and I feel even more like a failure. If you've been labeled weak, maybe in the relationships in your life, you're not going to ask your spouse to treat you with the respect that you deserve. Why? Because if they don't, it only confirms what you already knew, which is that I feel weak and you feel even weaker. (1)

Placing Your Card Back in the Deck

This morning we read in Scripture about a man who has been labeled. He is paralyzed. He has a physical disability. He and his friends hear of Jesus. Everywhere Jesus goes there is a huge crowd to hear Jesus teach. The problem was this man was paralyzed and he needed to get to Jesus.
Slide of Paralytic Here
Not only was he physically broken, a label which he carried. He was unable to work and unemployable. He couldn’t earn a living which means he felt like a burden to his family. Dependent on his family, he may have felt unwanted by them or a burden. During the first century, if you had a physical disability, it was assumed that you or your family had done something to deserve this label. It was the label of sinner and the disability was simply a visible sign of God’s judgement upon that sin. People looked at you and your family and would judge that you deserved the label based on your physical disability. But this man had some friends who believed that if they can just get their friend to Jesus. Jesus can do something for him.
So they carry their friend on a mat to the home where Jesus is teaching but they are unable to get inside. There are too many people so they carry him onto the roof and dig a hole in the roof and lower their friend, a sinner, a cripple, a burden, down to Jesus. All these labels are placed before Jesus. What does Jesus do?
“Seeing their faith”, the man and his friends faith. Jesus say’s, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus zeros in not on the disability but on the identity and labels this man carries and represents. The says those labels are what need to be healed first. You are not a sinner. You are not a mistake. You are forgiven. Jesus doesn’t heal the symptom of the label. He heals the source.
This cripple needed a new label and new identity. What we need to take from this story is a few things.
Transformation Slide Here
Transformation and change rarely happens in isolation. Your friends will either carry you closer to Jesus or pull you farther away. Who do you have to talk to? Who do you have in your life to keep you accountable? We all need someone. If you don’t have anybody, to point you toward the healing love of Jesus. You need someone. To say you believe in Jesus Christ and that you are a Christian is to lay claim to Jesus’ mantle as a teacher, healer, disciple maker. If you aren’t a friend bring people closer to Christ. You are not living into your identity. (>Next Slide Here)
God, the Parent, has been trying to bring us back home into his loving arms from the very beginning. God is much more concerned with who your are and who you were created to be than what you have or haven’t done. Those labels, the approval and opinions that you seek is not the opinion of other but the opinion of the “Evil One” who wants to see us fail. Satan, devil, evil one however you identify that voice that whispers in your ear. Wants to define your future and lead you away from Jesus’s healing power. (>Next Slide Here)
What Jesus Christ offered us on the cross was not a better label but a new identity. It isn’t like a label on your shirt. It is written on our soul and it says, “You are a child of God.” The difference between a label and an identity is this. A label may describe your past, your identity in Christ defines your future.
God, the Parent, has been trying to bring us back home into his loving arms from the very beginning. God is much more concerned with who your are and who you were created to be than what you have or haven’t done. Those labels, the approval and opinions that you seek is not the opinion of other but the opinion of the “Evil One” who wants to see us fail. Satan, devil, evil one however you identify that voice that whispers in your ear. Wants to define your future and lead you away from Jesus’s healing power.
Most of us go through life thinking, “If I can just get a new label, a better label! Maybe that will be enough, maybe I will be good enough.” Jesus Christ is lifted up and dies on a cross so that we and look up at His sacrifice of deep abiding love for us and know that what he offers us is not a better label. No! What Jesus offered that paralyzed man is offered to all of us as well, a new identity, a new future. It isn’t written on our shirt but on our soul and it says “child of God”. The difference between a label and an identity is this. A label describes your past, your identity in Christ defines your future.
Old things are passed away; All things are made new,” greatly changed from what they were. We are reconciled to God through the cross. Jesus took upon himself our sins and put them to death on a cross. The message is the same to all of us, just as it was to the paralytic.
Do you have faith in me? Yes! Then your faith has healed you. Your sins are forgiven. Pick up your mat and walk.
So in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Let me ask you. Do you have faith in Jesus Christ? Yes! If you do, take that list of labels which cause you so much pain and tear it up! Go ahead, tear it up. Your sins are forgiven. You are made whole, turn away from those labels and turn toward your true identity. You are a child of God!
Galatians Slides here
tells us.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

You were created in the image of God.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.

26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

Jesus came to forgive our sins.
Jesus came to restore us to our TRUE IDENTITY and give us a new identity which we have access to through belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Big Reveal

> Galatian Image here
You thought your relationship with God couldn’t be restored. Like a master magician, we often come to Jesus expecting him to amaze us with something we expect. But while we are distracted with our physical woes. Jesus offers us more than we expected. He takes our card of labels tears it to pieces and then heals it and restores it absent the label of sinner, failure, rejected, unclean, unloved. He tells us to “Stand up, pick up our mat (card), and go home! What the devil meant for evil, God will use for good!
Jesus picked up that card and healed it, restored it.
What lies or labels are you believing? Are you looking for a torn up card (the past) or are you looking for your renewed identity as Christ has proclaimed. Through baptism and faith in Christ you can have a new identity, if you have already been baptized and have faith in Christ you need only lay claim to the promise before you. Stand up! Walk and Go home! Follow Jesus back to the Father’s loving arms waiting for you there.
What the devil meant for evil, God will use for good!
(1) Overcomer - Lies & Labels Sermon (LIfe Church)
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