Relational Vampires: Controlling People
Today we're beginning a brand new message series that I believe has the potential to speak to you in a massive way. We're gonna talk about loving people, because as God loves us, we're called to love people. I wonder how many of you recognize that some people are a little more difficult to love than others? We're talking about relational vampires.
What does a vampire do? A vampire sucks your blood. What do relational vampires do? They suck the life out of you. How do we love the people that suck the life out of us?
Today I want to dive in with something that many people face. How do we love those who are incredibly controlling? I wonder if I can get all of you to participate, how many of you know someone who can be a control freak? Most often the people trying to control us are not malicious. Sometimes they're just needy. Sometimes they're insecure. Sometimes they're just hurting people who are trying to get us to do what they really think that we should be doing in our lives. If they don't get what they want, sometimes they'll complain, sometimes they'll give you the silent treatment, sometimes they'll walk away, and all the time you feel like you're walking around on egg shells.
Let's start by building a foundation. What are the weapons that controllers have? How do they try to take control? There are two weapons that controllers have. You probably know this. But THEY USE THREATS AND THEY USE GUILT. They use threats and they use guilt.
How do the threats manifest? In some form or fashion, they may say it or they may imply it. You better perform or you will be punished. It may be a spouse who threatens to leave.
They'll also use guilt. They may say it, or imply it. After all I've done for you, you won't do this one thing for me. You call yourself a Christian. What kind of Christian are you anyway?
How do we as followers of Christ love those who intentionally or unintentionally try to control and manipulate us? What I want to do is I want to show you a story in Matthew's gospel, and it involves Jesus and one of his disciples, Peter. Jesus is very clearly explaining that he must do the will of God in his life, and Peter unintentionally, trying to do what he thinks is right, literally tries to take control of Jesus. Jesus was clearly explaining to his disciples that he had to suffer and he had to die, that he was gonna give his life and then God would raise him from the dead. And Peter looks on and essentially says, "Oh no, you don't. "We're not gonna let that happen. "This cannot happen to you."
Matthew 16 verse 21. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. You may notice sometimes the controllers and manipulators, they often like to isolate you, they often like to take you aside away from others so that they can help impose their will upon you, and that's what Peter is doing.
“Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”Matthew 16:22-24
How do we love those who are trying to control and manipulate us. From this story what I want to do is I want to show you three very important things that we need to know to love people who are trying to control us. Three things to know.
The first thing if you're taking notes is this. Number one, WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE CALLED TO DO.. And Jesus, he was so clear on what his calling was. I love it because over and over and over again, Jesus would say in different ways the very clear, very purposeful mission of why God sent him to Earth. Why did Jesus come? Jesus said, "I came to seek and save the lost." He told us who he came for and who he did not come for. He said, "I did not come for those who are healthy, "but I came for those who are sick." Jesus said, "I didn't come for those who are righteous, "but I came for the sinners." Jesus said, "I didn't come "so that other people would serve me, "but I came to serve them by giving my life "as a ransom for many." Jesus was incredibly clear on his calling and the purpose why he came. And that's what he was describing to Peter. "I've got to give my life. "I'm going to suffer, but it's God's calling, "it's his purpose for me, "and he will raise me back up again." For you to love those who are trying to control you, it's really important that you clearly define your calling, what it is that God is calling you to do.
I think people mistakenly think a calling is like this grandiose, like, I'm supposed to be a missionary to Iraq. I'm supposed to have a cure for cancer, something like that. I would argue that our calling isn't always specific, but sometimes it's to the people that are closest to us. Your calling might be to love your wife. You calling might be to lead your children. Your calling might not be to a work, but it might be to be a witness.
The problem is, I'm a people pleaser. The problem is, Many of us battle with being a people pleaser. What we need to understand is that people pleasing is a form of idolatry. What is it doing? What we're doing is we're wrongly putting people's opinions of us ahead of God's calling for us. And that's why we have to be so clear on what his calling is. What does calling do? Calling clarifies. When you know what you're called to do, it creates clarity.
Why does this matter? What does every controlling person have in common? There is one thing that every controlling person has in common. Are you ready for it? Everyone who is controlling has someone else who allows it. So, the person who is doing the controlling has a problem. But, so do we if we wrongly allow it to happen. That's why calling is so important. When you clarify the calling, it will keep you from being distracted away from his calling toward someone else's desires. Know what you're called to do.
The second thing is to KNOW WHEN SOMEONE IS TRYING TO CONTROL YOU. This is what's going on in the story. Jesus says, basically, "This is what God is calling me to do. "I'm going to lay down my life "and God's going to raise me up." And then what does Peter do? Peter stands Jesus down and says, "No, no, no, no. "This isn't gonna happen. "Never ever, Lord."
Now, ask yourself, was Peter the worst guy that ever lived? No. Did he hate Jesus? No. Was it his intentional plan to distract Jesus from the will of God. Not at all. He was a good guy who loved Jesus. Why did Peter try to control Jesus? Because in that moment he didn't understand God's plan. And that's why we have to recognize it. It may be a really good person, a person that we love and loves us, but we need to recognize when unintentionally or even intentionally, they're threatening us, or they're trying to guilt us into doing something. You have to really know your calling. And then you need to acknowledge and to know whenever someone is trying to control you.
The third thing is you need to KNOW WHEN IT'S TIME TO DRAW A LINE IN THE SAND. And this is exactly what Jesus does to Peter. Jesus says this, "This is what I'm called to do." Peter said, "No, no. "Not what you want, what I want." Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23
So if your grandma ever makes you feel guilty, just look at her and say, I'm not gonna let you talk to me that way, then call her Satan. Don't do that, don't do that. Work with me for a minute. Jesus says this is God's will. Can you imagine if Jesus had bent to Peter’s will for his life and decided not to go to the cross?? Where would we all be? We would not have a hope. Jesus knew his calling and it allowed him to move forward and do what he needed to do without others stopping him.
Let me give you a couple thoughts, and hopefully, for somebody this is going to be freeing. What do we know? We know this is true in any relationship, THAT THE RELATIONSHIPS YOU HAVE ARE A COMBINATION OF WHAT YOU'VE CREATED AND WHAT YOU'VE ALLOWED. Think about it. Every relationship you have, your marriage, your siblings, the relationship with your boss, your coworkers, your friends, your children, they're always some combination of what you have either rightly and purposely created or what you have passively allowed.
Next thought, and this is the application. IF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU HAVE, CHANGE WHAT YOU EXPECT AND WHAT YOU ACCEPT. Know when to draw a line in the sand. Jesus loved Peter. He said, “I'm not letting you take me away from what God called me to do." How do we do this? I'm not gonna let you talk to me that way. You can throw a fit, you can yell, but I want you to know I'm gonna consistently express my love for you, but I'm not gonna tolerate this.
Is that difficult for you? It's always difficult when you're redefining it because you love them and you don't want them to hurt. But even though it hurts, you know that on the other side, there is something better. Does it hurt when they're hurting? Yes, it does. But it hurts every day when there's a dysfunctional relationship and someone has taken someone else away from the will of God. So we have to love them enough to know when to draw a line in the sand. In this case, no, you can't talk to me that way. God has something better for you.
Now, let's get real for a minute. It's really easy to talk about those control freaks. But every now and then, when I look in the mirror, I have tattooed across my forehead, control freak. Does anybody know what I'm talking about, okay? And any of you who are a control freak, and that would be probably a significant number of you, what we don't recognize is we are doing the very thing that lucifer did in the Old Testament, which is, I want to be like God. And the problem is, I don't make a good God and neither do you. Think about this. No matter how much guilt you throw someone's way, no matter how many times you threaten, do you have the power to change your spouse? NO. Does God have the power and ability to change your spouse? Yes. Do you, mom, have the ability to control your child's future? And the answer is no, you do not. Does God have the ability to open doors and to close doors to direct your kids? Yes, he does.
And so when we recognize, we don't have the power to control, we stop trying to be like God, and we surrender to him. And that's why Jesus said right after this conversation between his will and God's will and Peter trying to stop it, what did he say? The very next thing in context of this dysfunctional encounter, he then turns away from Peter and he looks at his disciples and he says to them, "Whoever wants to be my disciple "must deny themselves." In other words, you can't be your own God anymore. "And just like I'm gonna have to give my life, "and just like God is gonna raise me up, "you too have to take up your cross and follow me." essentially, what was he saying? If you want to follow Jesus, you will never be in control again because it's not about your will. From that moment on, it's all about his will.
Why is this so important? Because any time we let someone else wrongly control us, or any time we try to control someone else, essentially, we're trying to be God. But the only way we can truly follow him is to surrender our will to his will, not try to control someone else, but entrust them to him, to pray for them, to love them appropriately without entering into the dysfunction, and sometimes say, I'm just gonna have to trust that the Spirit of God is gonna do a work in you. I cannot control it. I right now am dying to myself and trying to bring my flesh, my desires under the will of God because if I want to truly follow Jesus, it's no longer about what I want, but I will be fully submitted to him.
Do you need to fully submit to him today? Let’s join together in prayer…