A Sermon to Myself
I had another sleepless night last night (I had prayed for a “restful night”, Lord…), and during those waking hours I took an “inventory” of my life. Looking back through the years…all those things and people and experiences that have impacted my life; what has had the greatest influence on who I am today?
Hours spent in the Word of God? A Christian college & seminary education? Over a dozen overseas mission trips? Family & friends faithfully praying for me? Christian verses and songs memorized? Influence from Christian parents, mentors & spouse? A lifetime of church attendance
OR…Hours spent playing and watching sports? Secular education in front of a TV & Laptop? Over a dozen little harmless hobbies? Commercials and advertisements preying after me? Secular catchphrases and jingles memorized? Influence from non-Christian peers & neighbors? A lifetime of playing games?
Looking back over both lists this afternoon (which are condensed here for writing purposes), I would have to shamefully admit that the secular list has occupied MORE of my lifetime, and I speak as a missionary kid and pastor. (How many hours in front of the TV ALONE??) Regardless of which side is more powerful, I can look back at years of accumulated life, seemingly wasted…
Those who come to Christ will inevitably head down one of two directions, becoming, as Os Guiness puts it, either “impossible”, or “irrelevant”. Impossible Christians refuse to be molded by the secular or religious culture that surrounds, allowing only Christ to transform them through His Word. Irrelevant Christians are those who are allow society’s values to so mold them that they fail to show any real distinction from their non-Christian neighbors, family, and friends. Many Christians fear the label of “impossible” from those around them, and increasingly become irrelevant to others, offering nothing of value because they’ve become just like them! Jesus, however, was “impossible” to the religious power structures of His day, because He refused to fit into their mold, and compromise, and thus was a threat to them. Which might you be? Impossible, or irrelevant?
Paul states it beautifully in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
As Eric Metaxas describes it, the church in the West is like a cut flower: it can maintain its beauty only so long without its roots. Soon it will wilt, and ultimately die. (unless it is grafted into the Vine!) He writes: “Western Christians in 2016 can relate. Something has shifted. The world we inhabit seems to have become disenchanted, and so many of those around us have entered a state in some ways worse than atheism—a state of indifference toward God and the supernatural.”
See it or not, there is a desperate “struggle for the soul” in our society. For the few, there is a refusal to conform to the ways of the world under fear of God, and for an ever-increasing group, questions about sin, salvation and ultimate meaning just don’t matter that much. For the former, the few have discovered the life-giving source, and cannot be driven away from it by mere earthly enticements! For the latter, the many, little thought is given to reality beyond oneself, and to eternity.
A song came to my mind during those twilight hours; the song “Tree” by Justin Rizzo,
I want to be unmovable and unshakable, so let my roots go down deep
I want to be unmovable and unshakable in You
I want to be like a tree planted by the streams of living water
This'll be my song, God, this'll be my prayer, ‘Till the end, ‘till the end
It comes from Jeremiah 17:7-8, "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jesus applies this to Himself in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
So I thank the Lord for last night; for lessons learned, and reapply the following verses to my life: Galatians 6:14, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Colossians 3:1-4 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”