At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series, Everyone Has Influence .
Each of us is given a measure of influence to build each other up, to serve one another, and to help the people around us become the best version of themselves. Have you taken the time to explore how your personal leadership can make a real difference? What will you choose to do with the influence God has given to you?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE MESSAGE JAMIE SCHWARZ SHARED:
HERE ARE THE NOTES FROM THE MESSAGE BY JAMIE SCHWARZ:
Hello friends! My name is Jamie Schwarz and I am the pastor for our children and for recovery here at Gateway South. You may be thinking that is an odd combination, but if you’ve ever had children, you probably need recovery. Actually, let’s be honest: if you’ve been a child, you probably need recovery!
I’m excited to be here with you today. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommas! We love you and are grateful to have each of you here with us☺
When I was invited to speak about a Mother’s influence I immediately started having memories bubble up of how I’ve influenced my kiddos over the years.
I have 3 kids ages 20, 17, and 14. I’ve come a long way in my journey through motherhood but I’m not going to lie those early years of being a mom where rough. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I became a mom. Like, how do you teach your child not to do something without also teaching them the word no at the same time? Of course, once they’ve learned the word no, they never miss a single opportunity to use it.
I became a mom at 19 and so I wasn’t quite done growing up myself when I had to start teaching someone else how to do it. As you can imagine I made some mistakes. I influenced my kiddos alright but it wasn’t always for their good.
When kids are little bitty we are doing a lot of investing into them. We are teaching them and telling them all kinds of things that we want them to know, which is good. But, have you ever heard the saying things are caught not taught? This is the idea that as you are going through your daily life children are not only learning from you by what you say to them, they are actually absorbing a lot more from what you do. I’m telling you this today because no one told me! It might seem obvious to some but for one reason or another it wasn’t for me.
A great example of this that played out in my life was when my oldest child, Katelyn, started school. She was in a class with a bunch of little girls who all had older sisters. So, these girls had been exposed to more than Katelyn had. When Katelyn started getting a little sassy with me I was quick to connect the dots. I assumed these girls where of coarse influencing my sweet Katelyn and she was only getting sassy with me because that’s what she had seen them do. However, one day the sass reached an all-time high. I decided it was time to put my foot down and let her know this wasn’t acceptable in our home. I said, “Katelyn, I don’t know who you think you are but you will not talk to me that way. The girls at your school may talk like that to each other but this sassiness is not ok in our home!” Without missing a beat, she turns around and says, “I don’t get it from the girls at school mom, I get it from YOU!” This stopped me in my tracks – she was right. If I was honest with myself I was sassy. I was sassy with my husband and I was sassy with my kids and Katelyn had caught it from me. It wasn’t fun being on the other end of her sassiness. This was a wakeup call.
Kids can be little mirrors for us. We might see the best of ourselves show up in them but we can also see the hard stuff, the stuff we’d rather not see. Whether good or bad one thing is clear, we hold the power to influence and multiply.
Take Mother’s Day for instance, just think for a second about why we set aside a day to celebrate mom’s? At the root, aren’t we celebrating their investment into the next generation? Whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally they are a vessel of multiplying and influencing life. At first glance, you might be tempted to dismiss this because you’re not currently a mom or you don’t ever plan to be a mom but I am going to challenge you to go deeper with me. I believe God has more here for all of us…not just the moms in the room.
In all of creation God uses physical things to teach us about spiritual ones. We see this over and over again in the Bible through symbolism, imagery, and parables. God uses our experience with physical light and dark to teach us about Himself and the contrast between life with Him or life apart from Him. He uses the work of a shepherd to teach us about Himself and how He cares for us. Is this a coincidence? Not at all! This is God in His wisdom revealing Himself through creation and intentionally surrounding us with opportunities daily to discover Him and His ways more fully. Have you heard of discovery centers in classrooms for children, where they get to learn through hands on experience? Our world is one big discovery center where everything becomes an opportunity for us to learn and grow. Motherhood is an intentional design by God that has a great deal to teach all of us about our role in God’s family and His high value for multiplying life and influencing the next generation.
Image of God
I’ve discovered that when you want to better understand something or someone it’s good to start from the beginning. So, we are going to head back to the origin of humanity.
The Bible tells us that before the creation of the world God was. That unlike us, God has always been, He didn’t have a beginning and He was not created. Now for many of us this already hurts our brain because we can’t understand this – there is nothing in our experience that hasn’t had a beginning so we have a very difficult time processing something we can’t relate to and have no experience with. But, if in fact God is who He says He is, and He created all things, then it kind of makes sense that our finite minds would struggle to fully understand an infinite God. It’s like trying to fit all the water of the world in a little 8 oz glass…it’s impossible! Yet, just because there are things that are difficult for us to understand about God, doesn’t mean we can’t understand anything. The Bible is full opportunities for us to get to know God and gain understanding about Him.
Let’s lay the foundation with some things we can know about God. God lacks nothing. Before creation God existed in perfect unity and relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Three in One God. Within this relationship they operated in unity, had perfect peace and lacked nothing – meaning they needed nothing. What the Bible reveals is that out of this perfect relationship they chose to create. It’s important for us to know as we get started that humanity wasn’t created to fill a need or a void for God. He wasn’t sitting around saying “Man something’s missing. If only I had humans to give me something to do, then I would have what I need.”
To be created to fill a need means that there would have to have been a deficit. It means something would have to have been lacking – but in God’s case nothing was. So, if humans weren’t created to fill a need, why were we created? The Bible also reveals to us that God is rich. This means He operates out of abundance and overflow. Whatever God has, he has more than enough of it. Think of any characteristic of God, His strength, power, patience, mercy – in all of these we hear God has more than enough. When it comes to love the Bible tells us God is the source of love and He pours it out generously. This is key to knowing and understanding God – He is generous. God didn’t need to create humanity He chose to out of His generous heart and the overflow of His love. God didn’t have to have a relationship with us – He wanted to.
Think about your relationships. Isn’t it sweet when someone wants to spend time with you or chooses to do something nice for you because they want to – not out of obligation? We all love to feel chosen and wanted.
Think of this in financial terms, when you are in deficit you are in need and so your focus is shifted to trying to get your needs met. However, when you are in abundance and overflow you are able to focus on wants and desires because all of your needs have been provided for.
God created us out of the overflow of His love. Through us God’s family would expand and multiply and with it so would His love. We were created to receive God’s love in abundance and to give God’s love in abundance. We were created in God’s image to be like God. Listen to what the bible says in Genesis 1:26-28.
‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ~Genesis 1:26-28
Let’s break this down. The Hebrew word for “image” (tselem) literally means “statue” and usually refers to idols. We see this word other places in the Bible. An “image” is a physical representation that points to some other person or deity. People aren’t to make images of God because God has already made us images of himself.
This plays out in our physical world today. When life is multiplied often times children bear the image and natural qualities of their parent’s. We hear it all the time – you have your mom’s eyes or you have your dad’s laugh. Children look like us, they act like us, they reflect us. God created us to be His children, out of His abundant love, to be like Him, and through us reveals His design for multiplying life and love.
The Multiplication of Life
In Genesis 1:22-23 we see God give the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, a blessing along with specific instruction.
‘God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” ‘ ~ Genesis 1:22-23
Are you starting to see the beauty of God’s plan, of His design? Just as out of God’s love relationship He created Adam, then from Adam He created Eve, and then through them, He gave them the ability and blessing to, multiply life out of the overflow of their love.
This is where the uniqueness of Eve comes in. Eve is the Hebrew word for life. Eve was literally a vessel through which new life was multiplied, nourished, and grown. It was through Eve this life would be prepared and brought into the world. Through Eve we learn that mothers are vessels of nurturing and multiplying new life. During the process of pregnancy, a mother’s body physically becomes the source of nourishment helping the little one inside of her to grow and mature. Once born a mother plays a key role in making sure that little one continues their journey of growth and maturity. Through her own life she nourishes and grows the life of another. Doesn’t this beautifully reflect what God first did with humanity?
God created women to be a vessel through which life and love would be multiplied. Through motherhood God reveals His heart for us. God’s gives life and love to us and He includes us in the beautiful multiplication of His family by giving it through us.
Are you bringing life with you wherever you go? At home, work, in your community. Are you someone others experience as life giving?
The Multiplication of Death
Have you ever watched a movie you’ve seen before that has a really sad or scary part in it? And as you watch it over again you know that part is coming, they’re about to make a choice that will change everything, and you find yourself wishing by some crazy turn of events it would be different? It’s like you want the movies storyline to have changed from the last time you watched it. As if this time they would chose differently and everything would turn out so much better? Well that’s how I feel about what comes next.
I have this vivid memory from when I was around six years old of fighting with my brother and sister outside of my home. I don’t remember why we were fighting I just remember being devastated by the fight and wishing it didn’t have to be this way. I dramatically threw myself on the ground and cried out to God “Why did Adam and Eve have to sin!?” I was an odd little kid but all the way back then I knew this was when everything changed.
You see this principle of multiplication is great as long as we are multiplying the good things God created us to multiply, His love and life. But what about sin and death? Humanity was created to share in God’s generosity and we are created to be vessels through which God’s generosity is shared but what happens when we scrap that plan and we move away from God? What happens when we believe lies about God, as if He’s holding out on us and we reject His ways and rebel against Him? We know the answer to this one because we are living in it. Things break.
Our world is broken. All we have to do is look around. There are many of you who find it hard to even come to church on Mother’s Day because you were hurt deeply by your mother. There are women in this room right now who want very badly to be a mother but their bodies not cooperating. There are marriages struggling, children being neglected, people who feel unvalued or unseen, many buckling under the pressure or just looking for a way to cope. If God created us to multiply love and life why is there so much rebellion, selfishness, destruction, depression, and death? Why is there so much darkness?
In Genesis 3 our origin story takes a turn for the worst. Adam and Eve had been given a choice in the garden. This is essential for any love relationship to exist. Love cannot be forced it must be chosen. God placed a tree in the garden that He told them not to eat of. This tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve had the choice to trust God, which was also how they chose to love Him or they could choose to not trust Him and put their trust in themselves, apart from God, which would create division between them and God. Unfortunately, they chose not to trust God’s goodness and believed He was holding out on them. Even though all they had ever known was the goodness and generosity of God they were deceived and took matters into their own hands choosing to play God themselves by deciding to eat from the tree God had warned them not to. They rebelled against God and here, sin and death entered our world.
The word sin is actually an archery term that means to miss the mark. In archery if someone missed the target they were aiming at they would call out sin. In Adam and Eve’s case the bulls eye would have been choosing to trust in God’s goodness, His generosity, His love, and His prevision – that He wasn’t with holding any good thing. The choice Adam and Eve made wasn’t a slight miss. By choosing to not trust God and to go their own way, it was as if they turned in the opposite direction, and said “I’m going to aim my arrow away from you, I’m choosing to set my sights elsewhere” They didn’t just make a slight adjustment in their decision. They chose to turn away – to go their own way. Their relationship with God, their intimacy with Him and fellowship with Him was broken. Not because God had changed but because they had.
When Adam and Eve stopped trusting in God and started trusting in themselves their view of things changed forever. They couldn’t just go back to the way things were. Their relationship with God was forever changed.
Have you ever experienced mistrust in a relationship? It can make you crazy, can’t it? If you suspect someone is lying to you or talking bad about you, it completely changes the way you see them, even if you don’t know that they are actually doing those things. Adam and Eve’s mistrust of God and rebellion against Him changed the way they viewed God and that changed the way they viewed everything. The tragedy is this didn’t just impact Adam and Eve. Because they now lived under the power and influence of sin it began to multiply in their lives and in their relationship with each other. Like a disease it began to rapidly spread.
Remember God had created them in His image with the power to multiply life and love, but once they turned away from God they began to multiply sin and death. Paul talks about this in Romans 5:12…
‘Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— ‘ ~Romans 5:12
God did not create us to multiply sin but in our rebellion against Him that’s exactly what we do. I’ve seen this personally manifest in my life.
It wasn’t long after I started a family that I started having anger outburst. Little things would set me off and I would lose it. In these moments I felt like I was seeing red and the anger would take over. Nothing they had done merited my angry response. When I would calm down I’d feel such shame and promise myself I was never going to get that angry again. But no matter how many times I said that it continued to happen. I would yell at them, say condemning judgmental things, leaving them feeling so broken and ashamed. What really broke my heart is when I started to see this anger showing up in them. When things didn’t go their way, they’d respond in anger which only multiplied the problem for our whole family and anger started to fill our home. This is NOT the mom I wanted to be but it soon became clear to me that just wanting to be different and saying I didn’t want to be this way wasn’t enough to change me. I needed help if I wanted to be able to help my family. So, I cried out to God please help me, please help my children to be nothing like me. Have you ever felt that? Have you ever hated your anger, or despised your selfishness, and just wanted so badly to be different? We all feel this way – the feeling of shame that comes after we’ve judged ourselves for an act or a choice that, no matter how many times we try to stop or say never again, we still go back to. We feel enslaved to it and we just can’t seem to break free. Sin is like that – a prison that no matter how many times we try to break out of it we just can’t get free. We sit there day in day out wanting so badly to be different but all of our attempts and failures have left us feeling hopeless. So, we give up. We hunch over in defeat and give into an existence of failure. And in order to protect ourselves we convince ourselves “I like this prison, this prison is who I am, I want to be here” and we use denial to cope with our prison. Yet deep down inside of us there is a tiny spark, like a distant memory, that every once in a while, ignites as if to remind us – you were made for more than this!
You might be thinking this whole multiplying thing sounded good at first but now it seems like a significant design flaw. Surely God saw this one coming, right? Why did He let this happen!? Why doesn’t He do something about it!? How can He watch all this sin and death and not put a stop to it!
Friends, this is where the story gets really good! Not only had God seen this coming, He had a plan. See this whole time God had never changed. No matter what we did He still loved us and He still wanted us and He was bent on restoring our relationship and winning us back. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5:6-8 says…
‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ‘ ~Romans 5:6&8 NIV
Now I don’t know about you but if I was tasked with coming up with a plan to save the world, sacrificing my only son wouldn’t even make the list. Of all the things, I would have thought of this wouldn’t even have been entertained for a second.
But then I thought about it from a different perspective. What if I was asked to save my brother or one of my sisters by sacrificing my own life? Would I give my life to save theirs? If they had gone so deeply into debt that the only way to bring them out of that debt and bondage was trading my life for theirs would I do it? You bet I would! I love my sisters and my brother. They’re my family. If I could save their life by giving my own I wouldn’t hesitate. I also know that if one of my siblings was lost and I saw the pain it was causing my parents I would do everything in my power to try and find them and bring them home.
God helped me to see that if that is true for me and my little family then how much more would Jesus willingly want to lay down His life for us in full payment for our sin so that through Him we could be made right and new! That through Him we could be born again to a new life where through the gift of the Holy Spirit and by His power we can actually overcome sin and no longer be a slave to it. That through Jesus we would be adopted into God’s family as Jesus’s brothers and sisters. And through Jesus we would be brought home and reunited with our Father. Here’s how Paul describes this in Romans 5:15-19…
‘God’s gift is different from Adam’s sin. Many people died because of the sin of that one man. But it was even more sure that God’s grace would also come through one man. That man is Jesus Christ. God’s gift of grace was more than enough for the whole world. The result of God’s gift is different from the result of Adam’s sin. God judged one sin. That brought guilt. But after many sins, God’s gift made people right with him. One man sinned, and death ruled because of his sin. But we are even more sure of what will happen because of what the one man, Jesus Christ, has done. Those who receive the rich supply of God’s grace will rule with Christ in his kingdom. They have received God’s gift and have been made right with him. One man’s sin brought guilt to all people. So also, one right act made all people right with God. And all who are right with God will live. Many people were made sinners because one man did not obey. But one man did obey. That is why many people will be made right with God. ‘ ~Romans 5:15-19
Through Jesus we all receive new life and are empowered to share new life with others. Through Jesus God restores and fulfills His blessing for us to be fruitful and multiply. Through Jesus we are ALL given the power to multiply the love and life so generously given to us by God. Through Jesus we can once again reflect and reveal the heart of God to the world around us. Through Jesus we are adopted into God’s family and we become children of God.
And in God’s family, there is no one who is childless. In God’s family, there is no one who is parentless. In God’s family, we are all empowered by the Spirit of God to multiply love and life. In God’s family, we all have the capacity to be spiritual mother’s. In God’s family, we are all called by God to love and serve each other and our world.
The truth is that no matter how you came here today God loves you with a generous abundant love that He wants you to receive and experience today and every day. And His plan for you is not for you to just cope and stay imprisoned. He wants you to live…to thrive! Through Jesus God has given all the invitation to join His family and to live life abundantly!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~John 10:10 ESV
I want to close today with a thought and a challenge for all of us. Through Jesus we receive God’s generous gift of new abundant life and we are empowered and called in Him to share, nourish, grow, and mature new life in others. This is not a role we push off on a select group of people this is the role we were all created for and that God calls us all to do. God is generous to you so that he can be generous through you.
How have you seen God’s generosity show up in your life? Have you experienced His mercy, His grace, His love?
I want to challenge you to close your eyes and keep them closed for a bit.
Now, think for a second – How is the generosity of God flowing through you currently? What might be acting as a dam in your life causing you to horde God’s blessing and generosity instead of sharing it? Is it fear, greed, control, lies like I don’t know enough or I’m too busy. What might you need to let go of and entrust to God so that you can open your hands to let God pour out generosity through your life?