For those of you who missed last week’s message (and for those of you who have forgotten), last week we introduced a series of messages on the church. And to start it off, we looked at the two most basic fundamental questions you can ask about the church.
#1. What is the church?
The church, we were reminded, is people. Church is not a building, it is not a charitable organization, it is people who belong to the kingdom of God – followers of Jesus Christ.
#2. What is the purpose of the church?
And we discovered that our purpose, as individuals and together as Christ’s church, is simply to love God and be loved by Him.
Now the question I want to answer today is “How do we do that?” How do we love God and be loved by Him? So as I started to prepare for today’s message I began to come up with a list of different things we should do if we want to really love God.
- Read the Bible.
- Study the Bible.
- Memorize the Bible.
- Love my neighbor.
- Tell others about Jesus.
Before I was finished, I realize that the list I had looked very much like a Christians New Year’s Resolutions. Have you ever done that? Maybe not at just New Years, but after listening to a convicting speaker or reading a great Christian book, or while attending a Christian conference? You make a firm resolution – I’m going to read my Bible more. Or I’m going to spend more time in prayer. Or I’m going to be more bold in sharing Jesus with my friends.
I’ve sure done that a lot, I imagine you may have as well. But what happens most of the time? You get up at 6:00 am to read our Bibles on Monday. Then again at 6:00 am on Tuesday. You’re a little tired on Wednesday, so you bump it back to 6:30 am. On Thursday you manage to squeak it in at 6:45 am. Friday you hit snooze too many times and are running late, so you decide you’ll read your Bible before you go to bed that night. You forget all about it over the weekend, and by Monday, you’ve given up. Then it’s back to your regular routine until the next time you feel convicted.
After we’ve been through that cycle about 10 times we begin to think that we’re a pretty terrible Christian. Why can’t I read my Bible more – or why don’t I get more out of it when I do? Why can’t I memorize verses – I know I should, but I can never stick to it. Why can’t I be more bold in sharing Christ with others? Even when opportunity comes up, I chicken out. How can I really love God, if I can’t do all these things I know I should be doing?
Could it be we’re too much like ourselves? The Bible teaches us that we are born with a sinful nature. Our natural desire is to please ourselves – not God. When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and gives us a new desire – the desire to please God. But the old nature is still there and those two desires are constantly fighting against each other.
Galatians 5:17 “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
So why is it then, that our sinful nature seems to beat out our new nature so often? Why are we so much like our old selves?
It’s like you’ve got two fighting dogs – a black dog and a white dog. If you feed the black dog steaks, but you feed the white dog just a few bread crumbs, who’s going to be the stronger dog and win the fight? Well, then if you feed the black dog bread crumbs and the white dog steaks, then who’s going to win? The well fed, stronger dog will always win.
In the same way, which ever of our desires are stronger (either our desire to please ourselves or our desire to please God) – whichever is stronger will win.
The question then is, how do I make sure that my desire to please God is stronger than my desire to please myself? How do I “feed” my desire to please God so that it’ll win against my desires to please myself?
Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The answer lies in surrender. If we want to really love God, to do to those things that will please Him, to have victory over our old sinful, selfish desires, we need to surrender everything to God.
“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” This is how we love God, how we worship Him. Surrendering our whole lives to Him.
When we surrender and God takes over, that’s when we become strong. That’s when our desire to please God can defeat our desires to please ourselves. When we surrender everything to God, that’s when He can do amazing things in our lives. That’s when He can do amazing things in our church.
Are you willing to surrender your whole life to God? Are you willing to hand over control of your life to Him? He wants everything. He wants to be in charge of your family, your money, your job, your business, your recreation time – everything. Are you willing to give God everything?
But before you do, be sure to consider the cost. When God’s in charge, He might do some crazy things. Look at a few of the things He did in the Bible when people surrendered their all to Him.
He told Noah to spend 100 years building a giant boat – and the world had never even seen rain before.
He told Abraham to kill and sacrifice His only son – the promised son God miraculously gave him and his wife in their old age.
He told Joshua to wipe out the city of Jericho by simply marching around it 13 times and then making a lot of noise.
He told Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water in the middle of a storm.
Are you sure you want to surrender your whole life to God? He might ask you to do some radical things.
But I’ll tell you this – God is a good God. Just look at the last part of Romans 2:2. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Good. Pleasing. Perfect. That’s our God. That’s the kind of God I want to run my life – no matter what He may do with it.
Was Noah crazy to surrender to God and build that big boat? No way! That boat was God’s way of sparing the lives of Noah & his family.
Was Joshua crazy to surrender to God and march around the city of Jericho 13 times? No way! God had a fantastic plan that allowed the Israelites to annihilate the city of Jericho.
Sometimes my wife & I wondered if we were crazy to pack up our life and move to here to serve in this church. Are we crazy to surrender our whole life to God? I don’t think so.
How about you? Are you willing to surrender your whole life to a good, pleasing, and perfect God? Or do you want to keep your life in your own hands?
And how about our church? Are we willing to surrender our church to God too? He may want to do some strange and crazy things with our church. Things that we’re not used to. Things that may seem radical. Are we willing to let Him do what He wants with our church?
Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, surrendered Himself fully to the will of his father. He gave up the glories of Heaven, and humbled Himself to born as a weak and helpless human baby. And not only did God become human, but He allowed Himself to be killed on a cross by the very humans He created. He did that for you and for me, so that we would not perish, but have everlasting life.