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When I worked with Youth For Christ we had kid-gatherings in teens’ homes called, “Campus Life Clubs.” At these gatherings we would explore topics important to teens within a Christian framework.

I’d like to invite you to join in on one of these topics – no age limit. You might do this around the supper table or suggest it to the youth group at your church. You might even introduce it to a men’s or women’s group you’re involved in. Here’s how it works.

I’d hand out five slips of paper and a pen to each teen at the meeting. Then I’d ask them to write down the five most important things (it might include a person or people) in their life. Then I’d ask them to look at their slips of paper carefully and ask themselves: “If I had to give up one of these things, which would it be? Pick one, wad it up and throw it on the floor. Now, if you had to give up one of the remaining four, which one would you choose? Wad it up and throw it on the floor. Already the exercise is getting harder. And so it would go down to the last two slips of paper. If they had to give up one, which would it be? Pick one, wad it up, and throw it on the floor. Some kids would say, “I can’t!”, “Try!” I’d say.

Then I’d hand out a sheet with a large triangle on it and a line drawn across the apex. It was labeled the, “Triangle of Values.” There’s only room for one thing at the top of the triangle and the rest can be written inside the triangle in order of importance. I’d have them do that and then show us their triangles.

The Triangle of Values. When push comes to shove; when peer pressure sets in, when “the world around you is attempting to squeeze you into its own mold” (Romans 12: 2, J.B. Phillips) the choice at the top of your triangle is the one that controls your life. What you choose is going to affect your life and probably the lives of others in the circle of your influence. It may affect your health (what you put in your mouth. It will affect your relationships; who will, or already is that “special other” (or at least you thought so) in your life. Especially for teens it may affect the choosing of a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” For parents, it might be their children (Now don’t take that further than I‘m thinking). A biggy in this country is money and the “stuff” it makes possible. The apex for many people is alcohol or drugs. Maybe you need to write down some “sin” that you can’t let go of (Hebrews 12:1).

Perhaps the biggest control factor out of which the others are ordered is SELF! I was doing the “fifth step” of AA with a gentleman one time, and since the fifth step has to do with the spiritual dimension of life I ventured forth to ask him the main question: “Do you have a “Higher Power” in your life? Now he’d been a little edgy about having to meet with a “clergyman,” and had begun our conversation with: “I don’t want to talk about religion!” When I asked him the Higher Power question, to my surprise he responded without hesitation: “Sure!” Would you be willing to share with me what that Higher Power is? “Myself!” That ended the conversation. I was tempted to respond: “Well, your higher power isn’t working very well, or you wouldn’t be in here talking with me”. It seemed to me at the time, that this might be the response of my “flesh” so I passed on it. I wonder where this gentleman is in life today.

We can’t escape the triangle of values in our life even if we don’t use the triangle analogy. God created us in his image which includes a “will”, the power to choose. Would you rather have been a robot? Some marriages act out this view; each spouse is always trying to push the other’s one “buttons!” Was it, “I do,” or “you’d better” that you verbalized at your wedding before the clergy person your guests, and Oh, Yeah, God?

God! He’s the other option for the top of our triangle. Whenever I’d do the slips of paper exercise with a group of teens there would always be some that would put God or Jesus at the top of their triangle. Out of sincere hearts they would let go of all the other options and keep Jesus. How is it with you?

What does it mean to have Jesus at the top of our Triangle of Values? In the Christian church we speak of Jesus as “Savior and Lord.” Both are crucial. If we just “receive Jesus as Savior,” but not Lord, we’re not living out what God intended. In fact, we can confess Jesus as “Lord” when in actuality we haven’t. Make note of the following statement by Jesus in Matthew 7: 21 – 23:

“Not all people who sound religious are really Godly. They may refer to me as “Lord,” but they won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. On Judgment Day (there will come that day) many (did you get that, “many”) will tell me, “Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.” But I will reply, “I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’”

The Message (a paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson) puts the last part of this scripture like this: “You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves look good. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.” (Matthew 7:23). You’ll have to decide whether or not you think Peterson is on to something here. What we have illustrated by Jesus here is religion without relationship!

The flip side of the coin is found in Matthew 6:33 where Jesus said, “But seek first his (God’s) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (the necessities of life; see verses 25-32) will be given to you as well: (NIV). To use “Kingdom” language, allow Jesus to sit on the “throne” of your heart (which influences everything you do, Proverbs 4:23) and seek to live a righteous life for him each day through obedience to his Word and empowerment by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Paul said of Christians in Ephesians 2:10: “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the things he planned for us long ago” (NLT). He picks this up again in Philippians 2:13: “For God is working in you (or Jesus on the throne of your heart), giving you the desire to obey him, and the power to do what pleases him”(NLT).

How is this worked out? Paul gives us a glimpse in Romans 12: 1,2: “And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God” (the throne of your heart comes with it). Let them be a living and holy sacrifice (the righteousness Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:33) – the kind he will accept. WHEN YOU THINK OF WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR YOU, IS THIS TOO MUCH TO ASK?” (Emphasis, mine). OK. Here comes the Triangle of Values part (or maybe the five slips of paper): “don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world (what’s at the top of your triangle?), but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is” (NLT).

The Triangle of Values, what does yours look like? If with gut level honesty and commitment you put Jesus there he will help you live out the best perspective on the things in your triangle: “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” Jesus said in John 10:10. That might mean removing something from the triangle. The thing to keep in mind pens Paul in Romans 6:16 is to, “realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master!” But there’s one thing you can be sure of: Your triangle will get to the “point!”

Until next time,

Pastor Joe


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