“Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don't act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5: 15 - 17 (NLT)
“Life is too precious to waste”. How do you prevent wasting your life? “Be careful how you live”. Opposite of careful…careless. Don’t be careless - “don’t stumble through life; don’t just drift.” Think it through, know what you’re here for, know your purpose - “make the most of every opportunity, be wise” then - “try to understand what God wants you to do”. Today, we’re going to prepare our hearts for this r12 journey by taking communion. Before we do, I want us to think about 3 important questions - What does God want? What does it take? Why should I do it?
Question #1: What does God want from my life?
He wants my whole life. You can’t be a Christian and live your life any old way you want to. God wants all of you. Romans 6: 13. If it’s really true, then it deserves everything you’ve got. If it’s not true, you shouldn’t be here right now. It’s either true, and that should determine the rest of your life, or you should just chuck it up and go do whatever you want to do.
There’re a lot of people trying to sit on the fence - “Well, I don’t know what God wants me to do”. Deuteronomy 10: 12 - “Well, I’ll serve God in my spare time”. It’s like a pie – I have my social life, my career life, my family life and over here my retirement life and over here I have my spiritual life - as if your spiritual life is one part of the pie. God wants the whole pie to be under His control. You have to give it all to God.
Matthew 6: 24 – Jesus says it’s impossible to have two number one priorities in your life. You’re always going to have a No.1, and everything else is going to be 2, 3, 4 and 5. There are a lot of things besides money that can certainly push God out of First Place in your life. Work, play, sports, hobbies can push God out of First Place, friends, school work can push God out of First Place in your life, dating, even your own family can push God out of First Place in your life. Jesus is saying you can’t serve God and something else at the same time.
One time Jesus was walking down the streets of Jerusalem and a man walked up and Jesus said, “Follow me” and the guy said, “Okay, I will follow you. But Lord, let me, first, go take care of some things I’ve got to take care of”. Very personal question – where are you saying to God, “me first”? You know, even Christians do this. Where are you saying, “God, I’ll live for you, but let me first find somebody to marry. God, I’ll live for you, but let me first finish my studies. God, I'll really serve you, but let me first get the kids out of the house. God, I’m really going be on fire for you, I’m going to do it all, but let me first achieve financial independence. Let me first pay off my bond. Let me first build my career. Let me first finance my kid’s education”. God says, “If I’m not first, none of this is going to be in right perspective”.
Jesus said, “it’s like a king who plans a big banquet and he goes out and invites everybody to come to this wonderful banquet. People began to make excuses.” Luke 14: 18 – 20 The first guy uses his wealth as an excuse – I just bought some land and I have to go look at it – it will still be there, but he had to go look at it. The second one used his work as an excuse – I’ve got to go and plow my field. The third guy used his wife as an excuse – I just got married. So here’s my question to you – what excuse do you keep giving to God for you putting yourself first? Lord, let me first do this, then I’ll be sold out to you - then I’ll be all yours. Secret – put God first in your life, He’ll take care of everything else.
Proverbs 3: 6 - I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to be a success. The Bible tells you how – “In everything you do, put God first and he will crown your efforts with success”. Have you been trying to live a part-time Christian life? The first question of life is - what does God want? He wants all of you.
Question #2 – What does it take?
What does it take to not waste my life? - to become all that God wants me to be? - to develop myself to my fullest potential? One word - unpopular word - discipline. You cannot be a disciple without discipline - 2 words go together. 1 Timothy 4: 7a - what is discipline? Discipline is delayed gratification. Discipline is doing the difficult now, in order to enjoy the benefit later. Some of us are incredibly disciplined - in your work, your career. You plan your day, you’re always on time, you’re conscientious in your work habits. Some of you are very disciplined in your physical workouts. You never miss a physical workout. It’s in your routine, in your schedule. Some of you never miss a favorite TV show. Of course, many of us never miss a meal. You know where we’re disciplined? In the areas we want to be. The things that are important to you, you get done. What if you were as disciplined in having a daily quiet time as you are in never missing a meal? - disciplined in serving others as you are in getting up and going to work everyday? - disciplined in attending church as you are in watching that favorite TV show that you never miss?
There’s another word for discipline – “habits”. Habits are disciplines and you are the sum total of your habits. If you habitually tell the truth, you have integrity. If you are habitually faithful to your spouse, you are a faithful person. It’s what you do over and over and over without even thinking. If it’s a habit, it’s a part of your life and your whole life is designed, shaped, controlled, developed by the habits. If you want to change your life, all you have to do is change your habits. One of the major goals of r12 - is to help you develop some new spiritual habits.
1 Timothy 4: 7b - Keep spiritually fit. There are exercises you can do that will keep you spiritually fit, just like there are exercises you can do that will keep you physically fit. One is the discipline of letting go. That means you let go of things because you can’t keep adding things to your schedule without letting go of something else.
Hebrews 12: 1 - “weight” and “sin” - 2 things that keep you from being all that God wants you to be - limit your potential in life - waste your life. God says, “You’ve got to let go of these things”. Now, you know what sins are…breaking one of the commandments of God. But what’s a “weight”? - something that’s not necessarily wrong; it’s just not necessary. A weight can be all kinds of things - a relationship, an expectation, an activity, a club, a memory that you refuse to let go of, a fear, a job. You have to say “no” to some things. You have to say “no” often to good things in order to have time for the best things. If you are serious about fulfilling your purpose in life you have to make space for God in your life - you’re going to have to cut some stuff out. Some good stuff, not sin, just good stuff.
You can’t keep adding things to your schedule. We’re getting ready in r12, to add some new habits to your schedule. A daily devotional reading which will help you understand God’s purposes of your life and a weekly meeting in a small group for 6 weeks. I’m telling you right now as your Pastor who cares about you; you need to decide right now what you’re going to cut out before you start r12. You can put so many irons in the fire you put out the fire. If you burn the candles at both ends, you are not as bright as you think you are. Your life’s already overcrowded, but not everything in your life is of equal value. So you need to ask, “What am I going to stop doing?” When you take on a new activity, a new habit, a new skill, a new commitment, you should say, “What am I not going to do?” at the same time.
Another discipline to consider as we get ready to go into r12 - discipline of putting first things first. Luke 10: 40 - 42 - Jesus said, “If it comes down to spending time with me, or washing the dishes, there’s no competition”. Do you find yourself like Martha? Is your life so busy, you don’t have time to stop and focus on God? You get distracted by tasks, but as you know, not every task is of equal value.
“Mary has chosen the better part” - means it’s a choice. You say, “I just can’t get it all done”. You’re right. Little secret – it isn’t all worth doing. You don’t have to do it all. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head, saying you have to do it all. God doesn’t expect you to do it all. You’ve got the time to grow spiritually. Do you want to make the time? Will you make the time, make the choice? Will you, like Mary, choose the better part?
How many of you would have the courage enough to admit, “I’m not really a disciplined person”. Philippians 2:13 - Willing and able – He gives you the desire, and then He gives you the willpower. If you’ll just make the choice to let some things go, to put some things on hold, to put God first, to focus on some things and say, “I’m going to come home to my first love” – God will help you and you’ll find amazing things happening in your life.
What does God want? He wants all of you, every part of you. That’s what he wants. What’s it going to take to grow? It’s going to take discipline. You can’t be a disciple without discipline.
Question #3: Why should I do it?
Why should I make the effort to grow spiritually? Why should I let go of some things to make time for God in my life? There are many benefits and we can spend the rest of the day just talking about those. Benefits today in your life right now and benefits forever in eternity. I can tell you the reason why you ought to do it in 2 words – the Cross. Jesus gave His life completely for you and He expects your life in return. Today, we’re going to prepare our hearts for the next weeks by taking communion to remember what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
2 Corinthians 5: 15 - He died for all. Some of us have trusted Him and recognized that and enjoyed His forgiveness in our lives. Others of you, it may the first time you’ve heard that Jesus loved you enough to die for you. To offer you forgiveness.
We no longer live lives just for ourselves. How do you live your life to the fullest? You live for Him, who died for us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. You live for Him, who died for us because He cares about us more than we can ever imagine. In the depths of His love and care for us, He has a purpose for our lives that cannot match anything we can ever dream of. You can never bring the kind of fulfillment to your life, or joy to your life that He can bring to your life.
We’re looking forward to r12. Why did He ask us to do this? Not for a religious ritual. He asked us to do this because He wants each and every one of us to take what happened at the cross personally. Jesus died for you. Jesus was resurrected for you. He wants to give you forgiveness. He wants to give you purpose in your life.
So we each hold bread and juice. He wants us to take this personally. This is a celebration for believers, for those who trusted in the fact that Jesus died for us and is willing to forgive us. Some of you, as you take this just now, I encourage you to believe as you take this to say to Jesus Christ, “I trust you to forgive my sins and lead my life. I trust you for the strength and life I cannot find on my own”. This bread represents Jesus’ body that He loved us enough to die for us. Let’s take this and eat this, as we remember Him.
Ephesians 1: 7 – This cup represents His blood, His kindness, His forgiveness. Let’s take and drink this as we remember Him. Jesus we thank you. We thank you for your love for us, your overwhelming, overflowing kindness in our lives. Thank you for the cross. As we take this, we reaffirm in our hearts that we believe in you. We trust in you. We trust in your forgiveness and we trust in your direction in our lives. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Romans 12: 1 - it cost Jesus to die for you and it’s going to cost you to live for Him. But He deserves it, because you would have no destiny if it weren’t for the Cross. But because of the Cross, you will live forever and you owe Him your life. God is already working in our lives, even before we start r12.
People matter to God. Now I urge you, don’t miss out on what’s going to happen these next weeks. If you’re not in a group, get in one. If you don’t have the time, make the time.
2 Corinthians 6: 1 - “Only one life will soon be passed, and only what’s done for Christ will last.” Nothing else is going to matter. You ever wanted to be a part of a miracle? Habakkuk 3: 2 - “Make the most of every opportunity you get”. God has given you the opportunity of a lifetime in the next weeks…don’t let it pass by. Don’t sit on the fence. Don’t watch from the sideline.
Prayer…Father we already know that you’re going to do some amazing things in our midst when we begin r12. Lives are going to be changed, families are going to be saved, friendships are going to be made, miracles are going to happen. We already thank you in advance. We thank you for what’s already happened in the hearts of people. But most of all, I thank you for the Cross.
Now, you pray. “God, I don’t want to be a fence sitter anymore. I want to give you my whole life, every part of me. I need your help in developing the habits, the disciplines I need to grow spiritually. So help me to let go of things that don’t really matter, and put you first in my life. Help me to know what to cut out, so I have time for what’s important. Thank you for giving your life for me. I want to be a part of what you’re going to do here in the next weeks. In your name I pray, Amen”.