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The Counterintuitive Life

Dying to ourselves to see life spring up.


I'm going to say something you can't argue with, and in fact, if you try to argue with it, you will simply prove my point. You are constantly talking to you. No one talks to you more than you talk to you. In fact, every moment of the day, whether you're aware of it or not, you're talking to you. Right now, if you're thinking, I don't always talk to me, you just talked to yourself. You are constantly whispering things to yourself, speaking to yourself, and driving yourself in certain directions by what you say to yourself.

It's talking to you when other people are talking to you. It's talking to you when you're listening to music. It's talking to you when you're watching movies. You're most dialed into it when you finally shut your laptop, turn off your TV, and get in bed. At that moment all of a sudden we're able to hear us. That voice inside of us, paired with what I'll call our gut (the way we feel), form what's called intuition. Intuition is the loose thoughts of our minds and the feelings in our guts by which we make most of our decisions. Now intuition can be a really good thing if you're intuitive, but even if you're intuitive, intuition should have a warning label on it, and that warning label is found in Proverbs 14.

The warning label for our intuition is found in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." Now the writer of Proverbs so believes this is true that he repeatedly says that nearly identical sentence throughout the book of Proverbs. So that author is putting the warning label on his son's life: "There's a way that's going to seem right to you, there's going to be something in your gut and a voice in your head that says, 'This is the way we should go,' and I want you to be careful in listening to that. It's not always going to be wrong, but I want you to be careful in listening to it, because there's a way that's going to seem right to you, and it's going to be the way of death. Be careful."

Now I would argue that we are all, by nature of being human beings, hedonists at our core. Hedonism, means to pursue your own pleasure. By our default, the action of our lives, that thing in our guts, and the thoughts of our minds are leading us toward and driving us to what we believe is going to most satisfy us, give us the most pleasure, and give us the most life. Every decision you make is leading you to that end.

I'm directionally challenged. My wife is not. I mean, she's Davy Crockett. So I need the map app on my iPhone. Does anybody ever notice that sometimes it will dump you into places that are incorrect? A few months ago, I was headed to this meeting down in Dallas. I was so turned around down there. I need a Chick-Fil-A or a Chili's as a landmark. So I'm following the map app, and I start to think, This is different than I remember. It literally said, "Arrived at your destination on the right," and it was a field. I thought to myself, This is a weird place for a meeting, so I actually hung out there for a little bit, waiting for the meeting to get started. Then I thought maybe I typed the address in wrong. So I began typing the address again and the same exact address popped up. So same address and I hit search. Now the app is telling me it takes 12 minutes to get to this address. The app has decided this address has changed from five seconds ago. Now I will be late to my meeting. I do not like being late; I feel stressed. So I'm panicked, and the map has absolutely betrayed me.

Now, since you have an internal processor, you have your guts and your mind saying, "This is the way to life. This is the way to fulfillment, joy, and happiness." My point is your intuition is off, and if you trust your intuition over and above the Word of God, you will repeatedly end up not in the place you had hoped to go, but rather, in a place altogether different, and not knowing quite how you got there. I know some of your insides are already arguing, "You're not in a field of despair." You might not be. Maybe you're just en route. But eventually, that's where you're led. You can't trust your gut and your mind over and above the Word of God. Now I want to show you how this happens, because intuition sounds right. That's what makes it so deadly. It's intuitive because it sounds right, it feels right, and it makes sense.

Intuition isn't always right

We're going to pick up in Matthew 16:21, but right before verse 21, Jesus asks this question: "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples answer him. "Well, here's the word on the street. Some say you are a prophet, others that you are a teacher, and some that you are a reincarnated prophet." Then Jesus flips it, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter, quick on his intuition, says, "You're the Holy One of God! You are the Messiah!" Jesus blesses him and says it's not his intuition. He says, "Blessed are you, Simon, among men, because God has revealed this to you." Way to go, Peter. I mean, you're always in trouble. But here Jesus is blessing you. Then, directly after that, we pick up in verse 21.

(Read Matthew 16:21-22)

Jesus had just said, "I am the Messiah, Peter! You nailed it! Congratulations! Blessed are you. I am the Holy One of God. I am God in the flesh, sent to take away the sins of the world. Peter, I am he." But then he says, " … but the Scribes and the Pharisees … They're going to get me. Then they're going to beat me, and I'm going to suffer at their hands, and I'm going to die."

If I had been there, I probably would have said, "Jesus, get over here! Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? I mean, I've seen you work these Pharisees and Scribes over! I saw you tell a dead little girl she wasn't allowed to be dead anymore. I saw you tell a storm to stop, and it listened to you. How are these guys who you are constantly intellectually checkmating going to finally one-up you?" Jesus literally silences the Pharisees and Scribes at every turn. It always gets to the point in the argument where they have to retreat, gather back up, and think of another question. Jesus constantly checkmates those guys, and now he's saying, "They're going to get me. I'm going to suffer at their hands. I'm going to be turned over to them, and I'm going to die, and I'm going to be raised."

If you're wondering to yourself, "How did Peter not hear that part?" Well, they never heard that part. None of them did. Jesus repeatedly tells them on the way to Jerusalem, "I'm going to die. I'm going to be arrested. I'm going to be killed. I'm going to be raised," and then when he gets arrested and is killed, they scatter. They're wonder, "Where'd that come from?" It's a case study in our ability to hear what we want and ignore what we don't want to hear. This is intuitive reasoning at its finest, and it fails Peter miserably, because watch how the kingdom works.

(Read Matthew 16:23)

Praise God, we just got some insight into what has gone wrong with our processor. I think what is significant is Jesus' response to Peter, "The reason you don't get this, the reason your intrinsic reasoning, your gut, and what seems to be playing to you is betraying you in this moment is your mind is off. Your mind is on the things of man; it's not set on the things of God." The "mind of man," in its depravity, can be summed up in the two ways it thinks.

The 'mind of man'

The mind has a consumerist approach to life; that gains what it wants when it wants it at the expense of reason and wisdom. It thinks only of itself, and it will use and abuse all of those around them to get exactly what it wants. This kind of self-centered, self-seeking says, "I'm the only thing that matters … " Nobody thinks they think this way. In fact, you're arguing with yourself right now that you don't think this way. In your mind, you're hoping that guy or girl you brought with you is listening right now. Nobody thinks they think this way, but by our lives, we do.

I think one of the ways we see selfishness really take root is how we treat other people, and that can be everything from how you treat your waiter or waitress to how you treat other people you feel are below you, and how you treat other people at work. Do you see other people as having souls, or do they exist for your gladness and the increase of your pleasure?

Second, if all you think about is today then you have no capacity for self-sacrifice. None. If today is all there is, the great virtue of laying down your life for something other than you becomes impossible because all you have is today.

I get that you could die at any time, but if you're 25, 26, or 32, statistically, you have a lot more time left. Now could you die tomorrow? Yes. You could die tonight. You could keel over right now in the middle of my talk. I could! But more than likely, statistically speaking, most of us have a few more decades, or a lot more decades left on earth, and when all you think about is today self-sacrifice becomes impossible. The understanding of building toward tomorrow is missed on you, so you begin to lack discipline. You begin to lack a seriousness about preparing for tomorrow.

Our processors are broken

So you and I have a voice in our heads, and we have a feeling in our guts. Our intrinsic thinking is leading us toward what we believe is going to be fulfillment, life, and happiness. So the decisions we're making and the relationships we're in are leading us toward what we believe are going to be satisfying, fulfilling, God-honoring, God-exalting, joy-filled, happy days.

The Bible put a warning label on that and says, "Be careful, because if you're not careful, that way is going to end in death." We see Peter, who is a follower of Christ. He left nets, left his father, left the boat, and is following Jesus. His intrinsic reasoning has taken over, and he's beginning to rebuke Jesus because his mind, according to Jesus, is set like the 'mind of man' and not like the mind of God. Now we get to watch Jesus flip intuition on its head.

(Read Matthew 16:24-26)

When all is said and done, Jesus just flipped it, because what Peter is fighting for is life. He's fighting for what makes sense. He's saying, "No, no, no. This cannot be true, Jesus. My gut is telling me this is true. My mind is telling me this is what's true, Jesus. If you're the Messiah, if you're who you say you are, then surely what you're saying can't come to pass." Then Jesus says, "You have your mindset. Your processor is broken. Let me fix your processor. You want life? Die. You want happiness? Take up your cross and follow me. You want purpose and fulfillment? Don't lose your soul for the trinkets of what's transient." This is intuition flipped on its head, so what Jesus is asking for, if I could just stick with the analogy I've been with this whole time, is an acknowledgment in you and in me that our processors are broken. We can't get ourselves there.

What I have found is around the age of 26-28, you start to have this "Aha!" moment, because up until this moment, you've had these milestones to look forward to: 16 you get to drive, 18 you graduate from high school, 22 you graduate from college, then you get married. Then you hit this age where all the big milestones are behind you.

Here's what you become aware of: "My way is not working." I know right now you're arguing with me in your head, "My way is working. I'm not in a field of despair. I'm at Six Flags!" That's you in your head right now, right, arguing with the Word of God. "This is not true. My way can lead me there. I am content with my life. I am in a place where I'm experiencing the fullness of joy in all things." I've met plenty of people who can argue themselves out of the truth of God's Word, but it doesn't change the fact that even the Bible itself is saying, "You're going to make that argument." There's an acknowledgement that we can't get there our way. There's an acknowledgement that that voice inside of us will oftentimes lie to us.

That voice—you talking to you—lies to you often. My internal, intrinsic gut lies to me all the time. No one is harder on me than I am. So I will condemn myself for any little thing if the Holy Spirit doesn't breathe life into the Word of God I have read and feasted on and remind me of what's true and right before God. There has to be an acknowledgement that I lie to me a lot, and now that I've acknowledged that I can't get myself there, the next step is for me to say, "Then you can get me there, Jesus. You don't lie to me. Your Word doesn't lie to me. I'm going to come into submission to your Word as gladly as I can. When I'm not glad about your Word, I'm going to confess it, and I'm going to walk boldly, trusting that you're going to get me there." There's a confession that I can't get me there. There's an understanding that I lie to me. Then there's submission to the headship of Jesus Christ so death will bring about life.

Dying to self

We all know this is true. You see it all the time. If you watch a man loving his wife in such a way that makes you go, "Aw." Or you watch a woman interact with her husband in such a way that you went, "I'd do that!" You see a model of marriage and think, I'd like to be in something like that. You are looking at a picture of life springing from death, not life grasping for life. Because if you come into marriage saying, "This is what I want, and this is what I need, and this is what I need you to do, and this is what you're going to do to make me … " you come in with the mindset of it's going to go bad.

If in the end you approach your spouse with this attitude: "You are a gift from God to me, and you have been given to me by God to steward well in regard to seeing your gifts and the desires of your heart grow as much as they can to honor the Lord. I'm going to create in our budget, and I'm going to create in our time, and I'm going to create in our lives opportunities for you to flourish as a daughter of the King. I'm going to lay myself down repeatedly to see that that happens," then you have a real shot. Then when a woman comes under that, that's spectacular. That's both dying, and when both are willing to die, you have a shot at something really, really beautiful.

If you know my wife, you know she's much smarter than I am. Lauren is summa cum laude in 3 1/2 years with no summer school. She made two Bs in her entire life and will to this day tell you why that's the professor's fault. Then on top of that, she's ferociously godly, knows her Bible forward and backward, and is a consummate servant to our children and to me, and repeatedly in our marriage, she has said, "You make the call. Here's my input, but you make the call." That's dying to self. She knows she's smarter than I am! But she dies to herself and says, "You make the call, Matt. I'm in. I'm following you." I look at my marriage, and so much of my marriage was difficult in the early years, and what's happening now is we both try to die to ourselves as often as possible. Then life springs out of that.

When I watch parents interact with their children who are older than, say, my wife and I are now with our kids, the cool relationships I watch happen are almost all birthed out of death. They're birthed because a daddy came home tired but understood second shift and got on the floor and went after the hearts of his children. He got in bed with his daughters, and he cuddled up, and he asked them about their day. Sure, he might have fallen asleep, he's not a perfect man, but watching men and women go after the hearts of their children, that's about death leading to life.

I've stayed home with my kids all day. I know what my wife has to deal with. You lose your mind! Yet she constantly lays down her life, lays down her agenda for the day to engage the hearts of our children. We've watched couples older than us do that, and then we watch their grown-up children love them and love being around them, and, in fact, have the opposite complaint of them: "You were too light on us." That's what happens when they go after the soul, and they're always available, and they're staying in tune with the temperature of their children and pouring out their lives, not for their children in a way that's idolatrous, but rather, in a way that points to there being a God in heaven who can save them. As imperfect as they are, they die to themselves to see that life would spring up.

In fact, the apostle Paul said this very thing when he talked about how he would labor for the church. He said, "Death was at work in me so life would be at work in you." This is how God works. This is how God replaces our intuition, so what would lead us into a field of despair is replaced by the Holy Spirit of God through the Word of God.


We don't pull Jesus aside and rebuke him. Jesus says, "This is the game plan. This is what I have for you in this area of life." Your response is not, "Oh, Jesus, come over here." Here's the horrible thing about that internal voice of yours, it's always telling you how awesome you are. That voice in you never tells you, "You're wrong." It tells you why if you were wrong, you were justified in your wrongness because of the other person. So you kind of pull Jesus aside and begin to rebuke Jesus: "Now you know this isn't going to work. You know my background. You know what I've been through. You know what this situation is like. You know I've been living by myself for two years and I have three cats. You know it's time." We pull Jesus out, and we rebuke him like he doesn't know what he's talking about, like he hasn't proven himself over and over again.

I want to lay before you the invitation God lays before all of us in this place tonight, whether you're a believer in Christ or not, and that invitation is, "Come." If you're not a believer in Jesus Christ, and you were invited here by a friend, family member, or a coworker, my prayer for you is at some point something would go off in your soul, and you'd think, My way is not working. You can then move to a place where you can say, "Well, if my way doesn't work, maybe God's way will work," and you would seek to submit your life to Jesus Christ.

But I think most of us here are like Peter. We've pulled Jesus aside, and we're rebuking him. Some of us are in relationships we know aren't right, and we know we should get out of them. Some of us have decisions to make on where to go for work or what to do at work, and we know what's right and good according to the Scriptures, and we have Jesus off to the side. We're explaining to him why he's wrong and why we're right. Some of us, when it comes to our sexual relationships, have Jesus off to the side. Some of us with our money, and the list could go on. It could be anything, but we've got Jesus off to the side, correcting him—correcting the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Don't put Jesus off in the corner, rebuking him. Where he has come that you might have life and have it to the full, your intuition is saying, "No, he doesn't want my joy. He's not after the fullness of life for me. In fact, he's trying to take life from me," because when you rebuke Jesus, that's what you're believing. You believe God does not want fullness of life for you, but rather to take from you what you perceive to be rightfully yours. That's a lie your gut is telling you.

Matt Chandler serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and serves as president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization.

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Sermon Outline:


I. Intuition isn't always right

II. The 'mind of man'

III. Our processors are broken

IV. Dying to self