This sermon is Michael’s last sermon as Teaching Pastor at Stonebridge Bible church given on May 14, 2023.
Important Lessons For Christian Life
In his book Visions of Grandeur, Ralph Matson observed, “if we add up all the grand moments of our lives, most of us end with a very small pile of memories, but they are indeed, golden. In contrast, a similar collection of all our mundane times yields a ponderous heap. It’s clear that the bulk of our lives’ efforts are consumed by routine tasks and ordinary occasions. A few spectacular events emerge. They stand out in our memories. We may even swell a little with a wholesome pride as we stroll down nostalgic streets. Yet, as we look at the rest of our lives, we see the majority is made up of enormous routines, uneventful, perhaps mediocre.”
Live For Christ, Not For Self
How can we focus more on Christ than just, ‘I, me, my?’ How do we focus on Christ more than the horizontal? We can’t measure it, but have you thought about the Savior throughout a mundane day? Have you stopped to pray or surrender a situation to God? How do we dial it in where we think a little bit more about Jesus and a little less about ourselves?
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
This is cooperative sanctification; We can’t hurry our sanctification, but we can certainly drag our feet, choose to sin, be apathetic, and not be in the Word. Notice in this passage; Paul says, “The life I now live in the flesh.” This nonsensical perfectionism of our culture is a lie. We will struggle and live in this flesh until we are with Christ. But Paul says, “I live by faith.” We do this because He loves us and gave Himself up for us.
Because of Christ’s accomplished work, Paul the Apostle tells us we live by faith, not in the flesh. It’s not faith in faith or the little engine that could. It’s not the exercise of how much faith you have but trusting in Him to do for you what you can’t do for yourself.
Live With Purpose
In your teens and twenties, you’re just trying to bounce to the next thing and figure yourself out amidst insecurities and popularity. But, by your twenties, if you went to college, you’re navigating, ‘What do I do? Am I identified with my job?’
Whatever it is, it is our identity as it goes along. If you happen to get married in your twenties or thirties, you’re two sinners glued together. You have to figure out your collective purpose, and hopefully, you will come up with something. Then you have kids, and the world realigns; you wonder what you did before. And as they grow, things change in your world of protection and training.
One day some old preacher says they’re free agents. You love and teach them of Jesus, but by goodness, when they go out the door, literally and metaphorically, they’re on their own. And you pray, and you beg, and you barter, and you scheme with friends, but they’re free agents. So each chapter, each decade, what’s your purpose?
The unchangeable purpose is to make disciples of all nations and to love as God loved. No matter where you are, who you are, or what you do, your identity is not found in an ideology. Your identity is in Christ or not, and following Him. Therefore, you will never regret following Jesus Christ.
Let me ask it a different way. What are you going to remember? Colossians 1:28-29 says, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ. For this purpose I also labor, striving according to His power which works mightily within me.”
Seek Good and Godly Counsel
Proverbs 11:14b says, “But in an abundance of counselors there is victory.” You need good counsel. You need a friend who knows when you need a dope slap or encouragement.
If you don’t have those kinds of people, you’re either lazy, arrogant, or both. You are not that smart, and you’re probably very insecure. The Arbinger Institute wrote a book called Leadership and Self-Deception. It was one of these books that you read, and after you read it, you were sick to your stomach because you were so called out.
The book’s thesis is that people know if you don’t like them, and if you’re a leader in a company, they know who you like and don’t like. And that’s the self-deception part. I gave this to every elder team I worked with, and no one came to me and said, ‘This has been helpful because we were all exposed.’ So your leadership is kneecapped until you understand how to relate to each individual in a good, godly way.
Our Sins Have a Greater Impact Than We Want to Acknowledge, But Christ’s Forgiveness Has Greater Effect Than We Understand
Romans 6:7 – “For the one who has died is freed from sin.”
Romans 6:11 – “So you too, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:12 – “Therefore sin is not to reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.”
Romans 6:14 – “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under the Law but under grace.”
Romans 6:18 – “and after being freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.”
You’re freed from being a sinner, but now you’re enslaved to righteousness. Do you love the world more than your Savior? Do you love your sin that put your Savior on the cross more than you love your Savior? Every time we choose to sin, that’s what we’re effectively saying.
Maturity is When You Stop Blaming Your Past, Own Your Present, and Plan Your Future
If your past defines you, you will always be defined by your past. If you don’t own your future, meaning you get to make a decision, you’ll never get past what happened to you and never plan your future. So many have been hurt or abused; We do not minimize that, but we don’t have to be victims our whole life.
You alone can say, ‘I will no longer be identified as a person that was hurt or abused. In God’s great kindness with God’s wisdom, I’m no longer a victim and today I get to do something different.’ You can’t wish for things in your spiritual life; You need to make a plan and put it into practice.
Be a Lifelong Student of God’s Word
Get your nose in the book. C.H. Spurgeon said, “No one ever outgrows the scriptures. The book widens and deepens with our years.” Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
There’s no substitute for time in God’s Word. Start with 15 minutes a day. One of the main reasons to get a real Bible is because technology will distract you 100x and pull you away from focusing on the Word. We are so stuck to our phones because of the endorphin hit, but it will never trump time in the Word of God.
Over time, transition to 30 minutes, then set a goal for an hour, not because you have to, but because you get to. After that, you can give the Lord 1/24th of your day. If He saved your life, can you serve Him? Fred Smith said, “Maturity is turning discipline into reflex.” You do this long enough over a period of time; it won’t be checking a box, but excitement to read your Bible.
Comparison is The Kiss of Death to Contentment
We live in an unfortunate culture. We’re all focused on bigger, better, newer, and more. It’s part of the fabric of America. Even when the economy goes crazy, we’re still obsessed with new stuff and keeping up with our friends. To be a consumer is one thing. Clothes wear out, and occasionally, you must buy a new item. But consumerism is different, and we are sewn into it in the West. It’s about how you use what God has given you, not how much He’s given you.
The Word contentment means enough. Now God may prosper and bless you, and you may have all kinds of opportunities. You can enjoy the stuff of life, just don’t make a god out of it. Philippians 4:11 says, “Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” 1 Timothy 6:6,8 says, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” It’s God’s money, not yours. What are you going to do with what He gives you?
Ask God Not Merely For a Miracle, But For An Immovable Faith
When cancer cells, when one of your children breaks your heart when your marriage is falling apart, you may just want God to fix it. A miracle begets the need for another miracle. Not that God can’t or won’t perform a miracle, but what about saying, “God, give me an immovable faith. No matter what happens to me, I will trust you.” That’s the story of Scripture. That’s the story of the Hall of Faith. People died for their faith, never receiving the promises of God, but they were immovable in their faith. That enables us to smile at the future.
This Life, at Best, is a Clean Bus Station
We work hard to make Earth heaven, but it will never be heaven. When you’re looking at buying a home, you have to remember that this world is fading. Even your dream home won’t last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day.” Which are you going to feed? The outer man or the inner man? The outer man’s on the way out, and the inner man is on the way up. Enjoy the stuff of life, but feed the inner man.
Be The Person Christ Wants You to be No Matter What
Western Christianity has been so co-opted with if/then theology. We don’t understand that life doesn’t work that way. When your children disappoint you, you need immovable faith. No matter those circumstances, you need to be the person God wants you to be.
2 Samuel 10:12 says, “Be strong, and let’s show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.” This passage says it matters how you have faith because other people watch.
It matters that you’re courageous and strong when things go wrong because others notice your strength and courage in the face of horrible things. Psalm 31:24 says, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All those who hope in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
The Roman Road
The best transaction ever offered to humanity is to be able to know that you know where you will spend all of eternity. One easy way to break down the Gospel is the Romans Road approach.
First, Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s the bad news, but then we see the good news. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That verse took Catholic priest Martin Luther from death to life. God so loved you. He died in your place on your behalf instead of you while you were yet a sinner. You don’t have to be good enough to get God. God was good enough to come to man.
Finally, how do you appropriate the good news? Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” He gives you a gift. You appropriate it by faith. Do you believe what God said? You’re a sinner that deserves death. The wages you earned are death, but He loved you and died in your place, on your behalf instead of you. And by trusting in Christ, in Christ alone, you’re given a free gift called eternal life. Finally, Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.”
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