This past Wednesday we took a break from our "Walk Thru The Bible" series to cover one of the most powerful and divisive teachings of Jesus Christ as He walked the earth 2000 years ago. One that seems to be all but lost in today's Christian culture. What was this disruptive and disliked teaching of Jesus? The understanding that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord is not simply believing He exists; not simply asking Him to save your soul and then going about your life business as usual with a new addition to your life. But it is truly seeing why your heart, your life, your ways are so destructive to God, others and yourself—so in need of a Savior. It is seeing just how radically His ways of Love differ in beauty and passion from all we have known and wanting His ways more than our own. It is trusting His Character and His Plan to make more of your life than you ever could, and changing the way you live to reflect that trust. It is realizing He Made everything He saved your soul. He is the only reason you live—the only thing worthy of your life's devotion—and then truly giving everything to Him. It is a total change of mind and heart which changes your life forever. Not a sweet little incantation you said one day and now you have a ticket to stick in your back pocket. it is repentance; it is a change of mind and life because He is worth it and He changed everything for you.
This week, we are going to take this one-step further and look together at what true repentance—a true decision to love Jesus Christ with everything—really means in your life. Some may not like what they will hear; some may feel it is radical that it makes you ‘one of those people’. But Jesus was very clear in His teachings, and if it makes you feel any better, the people of His day responded the same way. For example: take a selfie right now and keep that picture forever [we'll explain in a few minutes]. Hit the button to turn it towards "camera"/ away from selfie—not about you. So many of us today believe that from day one of our Christian walk—from the moment we trust Christ as Savior—our lives should suddenly reap more benefits: blessings, healed relationships, easier life, health. That since we are now God's anointed and favored children, we somehow deserve more than others in our lives now. Our American mindset makes this exponentially worse and we are oblivious to our attitudes. We claim our "rights", we scream "injustice", we have this idea of what "we deserve" in life, and even when we come to Christ the focus is on getting a better life from Jesus. Our first complaint to God is what we don't get from Him that we feel we deserve. Our main focus with God is to maintain a trouble-free, prosperous life, as a measure of how successful our Christian lives must be. Our prayers are centered around an easier, more enjoyable day. Our refrigerator and walls are full of Scriptures about promise and blessings. We somehow get the idea that following God is all about serving us rather than changing us; rather than transforming us into better, more loving, more self-sacrificing people
who now walk with Jesus in a beautiful way, closer than ever. Christ did not die just to be the Way to Heaven. He died to be the Way to the Father, to clear our name of sin and change our minds and hearts so we could be one with Him now; so we could be what we were created to be rather than what the world has made us. We as Christians still define whether we have a good life by our comfort, success, security and acceptance by others. Please stop for a moment and compare that mindset to anyone in the Scriptures of the OT or NT: Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Peter, Paul, John—and tell me it's the same life? Stop and compare that to the Life of Jesus Christ Himself—the One who came to light the way; the One who had no place of His own to sleep; the One who spent many nights with no food, gleaning from crops; the One who was ridiculed from childhood as a poor, bastard child; the One who suffered false arrest, embarrassment, torture, death. Imagine Jesus acting like we would in all if this: “God just keep me away from these Pharisees please. God why are you letting this happen? I’ve followed You! Please don’t let anyone criticize Me publicly again. Lord, I’m tired of being let down by them. I don’t have to take this, I’m Your Child!” Could it be that Jesus missed what a "Blessed Life" in God should be? Could it be that He didn't work hard enough to find God's awesome will? John 6:38; John 4:34. My brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the surest ways to know that many of us never truly repented of our lost lives when we came to Christ; one of the surest ways to know we didn't really want Jesus Christ but what He could give to us is simply, powerfully this: we have refused to die with Christ. We have refused to give up our will, our way, our sins. We still want everything this world has for us, with a little bit of "Jesus" on the side. We have never truly believed that Jesus is better, more worthy: Galatians 2:20. Here is what we must get through our heads: Jesus did just not die for you so you would cuss a little less, be a little nicer, give a little more, while living for the world like everyone else, while living for yourself. He died for you with your name on His head. According to God you died on that day. So how would it go if I dug up a dead convict and placed his coffin on the stand in court? How would it go if I placed a dead father's coffin on the stand and told him he was responsible for paying child-support? Jesus did not do away with the Law that condemns us. You and I were not just pardoned. He completely satisfied it. We were executed, punished, done. He took it's full force until it was paid for you. You have to stop feeling like you sinned too much you could never be worthy to be saved. All of that is true—you are hopeless. That is why you were executed in judgment. Stop focusing on yourself and lift up our awesome God who went that far to totally remove anything which could be used against you. Throw the dirt already. What we are doing today—the reason we are living such powerless and miserable lives, is because most of us will quickly grab onto the fact that Christ died for us. So few of us will actually embrace the whole picture of what Paul has given here: Galatians 2:20. It is not like Paul leaves this open to misunderstanding in the Scriptures: Romans 6:4-6, 11-13; Galatians 2:19; John 12:24-25. We must realize that most of us have not done this. We have not died to self so we can be raised new. We are hanging on to the same life, same motives, same desires and simply trying to tidy up what we have now. How long can you spray air-freshener on a dead corpse? Throw some dirt on it already.
Jesus made it very clear that we are not capable of living the life he made for us in this mindset: Matthew 9:16-17. In other words: as long as we are living with a mindset for the things of this life, it is impossible to grasp and contain what God has for us. Unless your entire motivation for living changes—like an absolutely new and different person—old is dead. Unless your motivation begins to center around nothing but knowing God first—around the fact that He wants to be one with you (wants to live, walk, work, commune, and guide through you)—a motivation centered around having the worth He placed upon you, rather than placing your worth in accomplishments or people or things. Dying to self—becoming a new creation with Christ—means He died in your place, with your name, in your sins. Now you are to live in His name, with His mindset and love. Only when you adapt this new mindset where all of your self-esteem, your needs, your trust is in Christ, and the events of your life and the people of your life can’t change how you feel about them or yourself because who you are is established. Why you are here is established. Their broken nature and needs are established. When you can’t be shaken, dismayed, or offended, then you are ready to be a water hose, giving water to dry sponges all around you, rather than being a dry sponge yourself trying to get water from everything around you and getting offended every time you are not pleased or validated. Then maybe you can be there to help your troubled, guilty spouse through difficulty rather than falling with them. Then maybe a waitress messing up your order will be a chance for love rather than getting it your way. Then maybe someone who has done you wrong can see love and true concern rather than bitterness because you weren't treated right. Then maybe your ego, your precious time, your status will never again stop you from helping or ministering to another. Then maybe your own mistakes and sins will bring you to humbleness and honesty rather than pride and argument. Dying to self will very powerfully take away every access Satan has to your heart; remove every string he has learned to pull; will change your view of yourself, others, life events, mistakes, sin. Dying to self and living a new life in Christ means you trust Him, love Him—that you literally want His will with all you have—means you live to love unlovable people; means your reputation doesn't matter because you don't have a reputation. It means judgment, offense, depression, anger all cease when we are not the foundation for life anymore, and we can love unoffended, unhindered. It means that the sin which my God died to take away with my name on His head as He died will not be viewed with desire and joy anymore, but I will trust that it is destructive. It means that no matter how badly I have messed up—even when I knew I was hurting Him, knew I was rebelling—I have not only been forgiven, but that terrible sin has actually, literally been paid for with my death. I am truly, completely free because that is how much He loves me; that is how far He would go: Romans 7:4, 6. Throw some dirt already!
Some of you don't need more truth in your life. You don't need more prayer going up for you. You need to choose to finally die to self. You need to truly trust Christ and want Him more than your own life. What would seem to be scary and disheartening to give up your life to another is in every sense the most fulfilling, adventurous, intimate, purpose-filled, love-filled finding of your true self—the one you were made to become. But, so many today are willing to let Christ die for your Salvation with your guilt, your name on His head, willing to let God Himself give up everything to give you His life of honor, glory and love. But you are not ready to die with Him; not ready to give your life back in return; not ready to trust someone with your life who was willing to give their own to save it. Romans 6:10-11. There is so, so much more to experience with Christ, but you will never have it—maybe never have Him—if you hold onto this life, this world instead, if you keep trying to dress up and perfume the open grave. Everyone get out that cell phone pic again. Let that be your Eulogy picture and let this be the day you remember that you died to self. Just throw some dirt on it, will you? And embrace in total abandon what you have feared, put off, abandoned for so long. When will you really trust Him more than the world? What He has to offer you is not just for one day up Yonder. It is here, today!
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