Welcome to week 5 of What on Earth am I Here for? We’ve made it past the midway point now. I’ve heard a lot of good things coming from the Life Groups. I know God is moving on your hearts and I am honored and humbled to be a part of that.
I’m also excited about our Men’s Retreat coming up this week. If you want to come – and I strongly encourage it – we need to know TODAY. Have to turn in final count today. If you have not signed up already and been contacted about the details, and you want to come, please come to ME after service in person to tell me you are coming.
So far in this series, going through the Purpose Driven Life, we have covered why we exist and our first two purposes.
Purpose 1: Planned for God’s Pleasure – Worship is a lifestyle, not a song set.
Purpose 2: Formed for God’s Family – Fellowship is Fundamental. A solitary Christian is an oxymoron.
And today we are talking about
Purpose #3: Created to Become Like Christ
From the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him, and He knew who would, should become like His Son.
God’s plan has always been to make you like Jesus Christ. Once you’re in God’s family He wants you to take on the family likeness. He wants you to become like His Son.
Notice it’s not His plan B. This was the plan from the very beginning. God announced it at creation when he said “let us make man in our image.”
God made us to reflect His image, and Christ did it perfectly. So we are to become like him.
Let me be clear. Becoming like Christ has nothing to do with becoming a god, or divine, or doing exactly everything he did. It’s becoming like him in character, in moral attributes, in values. God wants us to emulate the one perfect human being. Because that is what it means to “grow up” spiritually.
God wants us to grow up like Christ in everything.
Babies are cute. Kids are fun, but we all know some adults who never really grew up. They are not that great to be with – and certainly can’t be counted on. We all know what it means to grow up. And we all admire those adults who seem to have great character, morals, values and such. That is because another part of our design is that we innately desire to reflect God’s character, his image. To aspire toward a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Well, Jesus was the best of the best. And God wants us to be like him – because it’s a much better way to live.
My third purpose in life is to become like Christ. (fill in)
This doesn’t just happen overnight. One day you’re just zapped and bam you’re thinking and acting and feeling like Christ. It’s a process. It takes your entire life. God will take the rest of your life to build your character like Jesus.
This process is called discipleship.
Discipleship is simply the process of becoming like Christ.
So how does it happen?
There are a few things that we must do for ourselves and a few things that God does to us and for us.
The primary way that you and I can become like Christ is by renewing our minds with God’s Word.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Transformed by truth.
Notice it’s not simply ADDING to your mind, it is RENEWING your mind.
How do you renew your mind???
1. Dirty faucet all the way on. CLEAN faucet OFF.
2. Dirty on, Clean trickle.
3. Dirty on, Clean on.
4. Only Clean On.
If you want the mind of Christ – you need to fill your mind with God’s words.
This is not only the best way, it’s the only way. It is fundamental.
In addition to renewing your mind…
God also makes you like Christ through other people.
We talked about this last week. A major aspect of Christ’s character is how he related with other people. You CANNOT become like CHRIST alone in your room. You need people in your life. That’s why fellowship is important. You can’t grow to maturity on your own. We need each other. That’s why you need a small group.
I covered this thoroughly last week, so I won’t belabor it here.
Fundamentals of Spiritual Growth.
- Renewing your mind with God’s Word.
- Authentic fellowship with God’s Family.
These two methods are not optional. You can try other ways Without them, but they won’t work.
They are also not either/or. They are not two roads diverge…
You can’t say “I’m more of a studier than a socializer…so I’ll stick with reading the Bible by myself.”
And you can’t say, “I’m not much for reading, but I like hanging out with people so I’ll just be as involved as possible and learn God’s word by proxy.”
That’s like choosing between breathing and eating to stay alive. You need both. They are the fundamentals to growth.
With that said, though, there are also other tools that God uses IN ADDITION to these two to shape you into the image of His Son.
In all things God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose.
Circle “all.” God works in all things according to His purpose. That’s Romans 8:28. Put that together with what we just looked at:
For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him, and He knew who would, should become like His Son.
What is “the good” in this context? It is becoming like His Son. God works all things together so that we will become like His son, which is the highest good.
All – what does that include? Everything. Everything in your life.
- Does that include bad things in your life? Absolutely.
- Does that include painful things in your life? Yes.
- Does that even include your mistakes? Yes.
- Does that include the sins that other people commit against you? Yes.
- Does it even include the stupid sins you commit? Yes.
God uses everything, even the bad things, for good if we give them to Him, if we hand them to Him and say, “Lord, use this in my life to make me like Jesus Christ.”
Everything that happens in your life, whether from your own doing or from external uncontrollable circumstances – God uses to mold and shape you into the image of His Son – the ultimate good.
Remember from week 3 that the glory of God is a human being fully alive? Being like Christ is being fully alive. There’s no greater good.
Unfortunately we often take this out of context and assume that “good” means that life will be easy sailing, that nothing difficult or hard will ever happen. And when hard things do happen we quote this verse and just try to get through the hard times back to green pastures and sunny skies.
But GOOD is not always comfortable. Just look at Jesus’ life…
- He went through trouble in a Garden called Gethsemane.
- He went through temptation in a desert in the wilderness.
- And He felt the trespasses of others on the cross.
If you’re going to become like Jesus Christ, God is going to take you through these same three painful things in life in order to help you grow to spiritual maturity. But growth is not automatic. Just going through these things do not make you grow. I know a lot of people who go through trouble and don’t grow, go through temptation and don’t grow, go through trespasses and don’t grow. You have to have the right attitude.
If you don’t have the right heart they will not make you better, they will make you bitter.
Remember that this life is only practice for eternity. It’s training. The harder you train, the better you will be in the real game.
Trials are not ordeals to endure. Trials are moments to be molded by God.
Renewing your Mind and Fellowship are things that YOU choose to do to grow. God won’t do them for you.
But while you do your part, God uses the tools of trouble, temptation, and trespass to chisel you into his masterpiece.
So, let’s look at these three tools a little closer.
1. God uses TROUBLE to teach us TO TRUST HIM. (fill in)
Anytime you’re going through trouble you can know this is a test. God is trying to teach you to trust Him. Troubles in the Bible are often called trials. Trials are situations actually designed by God in order to draw us closer to Him.
Troubles produce patience. And patience produces character and character produces hope.
God’s goal for your life is not comfort, it’s character.
The world’s goal is comfort – character can wait. Again the opposite of God’s will.
We are a society that obsesses over comfort and convenience. It used to be that necessity was the mother of invention, now it’s comfort. We spend more effort on comfort than anything else. Just look around your house, your car, your office, anywhere you go and notice how many things are specifically made to make your life easier. You don’t even need a key to unlock or start a car anymore…
One reason we are so obsessed with comfort is because we all have an innate desire for heaven, where there will no longer be any pain or sadness. We all desire heaven – when we will be in endless bliss.
It’s not wrong to desire comfort, but it’s foolish AND dangerous to think that you can have heaven here on earth.
The purpose of this life is not to be comfortable. It’s to become like Christ, to develop character, and that can’t happen without a few trials. No pain: No Gain.
Until you understand this – that the goal of life is character – life isn’t going to make sense to you. You’re going to have all kinds of problems and you’re going to wonder, “Why is God making it so hard on me? Why is life so tough? Why is this happening to me?” and you won’t have a good answer. And it will make you bitter.
But if you know that God is using these trials for the ultimate good of molding you into the shape of his Son, then life will make sense. It won’t necessarily be easier, but doesn’t knowing the purpose of something make a difference? Like waiting in traffic…
Remember God’s Goal is not to make life easy. The goal is to grow you up. I doesn’t matter where the source of the problem came from. If other people cause it, if the devil caused it, if you brought it on yourself, it doesn’t matter. God will still use the problem to make you like Jesus Christ.
Every problem has a purpose.
ALL things work together toward the good – of becoming like Christ.
Even and especially the troubles.
And boy did Christ have some troubles. The greatest, of course, during the last day or two of his life. Do you think it was easy for him? Do you think he just jumped at the chance to go through that ordeal?
Let’s look at what happened just before he was arrested.
They came to a garden called Gethsemane and Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Sit here a while I pray.’ Distress and anguish came over Him and He said, ‘The sorrow in My heart is so great that it almost crushes Me.’
Most of us are not able to see a trial coming. Sometimes we can, but probably not in the detail that Jesus could. Being divine, He knew EXACTLY what was about to happen, and it shook Him to his core. He dreaded it.
My friends it is OK to NOT enjoy troubles. Jesus didn’t. Sorrow is natural. Jesus felt it. Distress is natural. Jesus felt it. God never asked us to not feel the weight of difficulty. It’s the response that matters.
See how Jesus responds.
’Father,’ He said, ‘Everything is possible for You. Please, take this cup of suffering away from Me.
Most of us stop there. We beg and plead for God to take away the trial, the trouble, the ordeal. But Jesus modeled the proper response.
Yet, I want Your will not mine.’
Why? Because He TRUSTED God. Jesus knew how hard it would be, but he also knew what this trial would accomplish. “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.”
We don’t have that foresight to know what exactly is going to happen but we DO know that God is using it for the good of making me like His son – of building my character, of giving me ultimate joy. THEREFORE we too can trust and endure.
Jesus modeled how to go through a trial. If and when you go through trouble, pray like Jesus:
God, I know you have the power to take this problem away.
God I want You to take it out of my life because it’s causing me a lot of pain.
BUT, if this problem is for Your purpose in my life, so be it.
This is the essence of TRUST.
I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. I don’t want it.
But I trust you, because I know this is ultimately a good thing, so I will not waste it.
Here are two things that you can do to make the most of a trial, to do more than just get through it, but to really learn from it.
Two Tips to Total Trial Triumph.
1. Keep a spiritual journal. (fill in)
I strongly recommend this. It’s something I have personally been practicing for a few years now and it has served me well. I’m not talking about just a diary where you record what you ate and where you went, but really more of a prayer journal. Document your conversations with God.
Many of you may remember that a year ago almost exactly, I had my last service at Reality as the Administrative Pastor. During the months before that God had made it clear to me that I was to leave. Some of you know the story, but it was a difficult time for me. I didn’t know what the future had in store. I didn’t want to leave my church family who I loved. But the direction was clear, and so I obeyed never knowing it would lead to where I am right now. All through that process I journaled constantly, describing every detail of things that happened and my own thoughts and fears. I can now look back and remember what I was going through but also see how God used that experience to shape me despite how I felt about it at the time. You know what that does? It makes me trust Him more. It makes the difference between head knowledge and experiential knowledge. I can show myself proof that God is faithful though the trials. I don’t have to rely on a possible faulty memory. I wrote it down as it happened and I’ve been able to learn from it.
So, if you’re going through tough stuff right now – start journaling about it. Don’t hold back. I do them as prayers directed to God. You may be surprised how it can help you get your thoughts under control so you can sense God. And later you will be able to look back on it and see God’s hand in it.
2. Remember the reward. (fill in)
2 Corinthians 4:17
Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Again, this life makes no sense if this is all there is. When life is particularly hard it is so vital to remember that it is ONLY TEMPORARY, that you have an ETERNITY OF JOY to look forward to. That’s how Jesus did it – “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.” He didn’t endure the cross for the sake of enduring it. He did it for the reward. He did it for the reward and the joy of getting to spend eternity with US, those of us that choose to follow Him.
There are so many scriptures that point to this.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
1 Peter 4
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Living in light of Eternity is the only way to live. Remember the Reward. Get your head in the book and read the promises of God. Read about heaven. Read about what these trials are doing for you. And be encouraged.
God uses TROUBLE to teach us to TRUST him.
2. God uses TEMPTATION to teach us TO OBEY HIM. (fill in)
Let me be real clear about the definition of temptation. Temptations are situations designed by Satan and intended to harm us. God never tempts us. The Bible is very clear about this. He never temps us to do the wrong thing. But God is able to use the temptations that Satan means to harm us to do good in our lives.
How does He do that? Every temptation provides a choice? If I choose in that temptation to follow God rather than the temptation I get to grow. Character is built on making good choices. Every temptation is the opportunity to not only make a bad choice but also to make a good choice. You and I are not the first to be tempted, nor will we be the last. Even Jesus faced temptation.
After fasting for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan himself. Most of us only get his minions. I don’t have time to get into a study of how Jesus was tempted, but one thing we can know is that He really was tempted. He really was presented with an option to sin that in His flesh he desired to fulfill. That’s what a temptation is. It’s not a temptation if it doesn’t illicit a feeling of desire. And Jesus was tempted yet did not sin.
Jesus’ example here tells us four things:
1. It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus never sinned and yet He was tempted. It’s not a sin to desire a sinful action. It’s only a sin if you act upon it – or dwell upon it (like when Jesus said not to even look at a woman lustfully) you CAN sin in your thoughts, but it is NOT a sin to be tempted. You cannot keep yourself from being tempted. You can decide not to follow the temptation. Martin Luther used to say, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head; you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” It’s not a sin to be tempted.
2. Everyone is tempted in the same way. Even Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10:13
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
Some people think they are just especially prone to unique and special temptations. Nope. We all struggle with mostly the same things.
And we are ALWAYS given an option not to sin. ALWAYS. That’s what this verse means. It’s often misquoted or misunderstood as meaning God will not allow you to endure trials that are more than you can handle – NO – He absolutely will do that to make you trust Him – but He will never allow you to be in a situation where you are forced to sin. There is always a way out. ALWAYS.
3. You will never outgrow temptation. You never get spiritual enough so you’re never tempted again or old enough so you’re never tempted again. Jesus was perfectly mature and yet faced temptation and that reminds us that we’re always going to face temptation in this life. The temptations will not go away, but with practice you can get better at resisting.
4. Temptation is always an opportunity to do good. to make the right choice, a stepping stone towards growth in our lives. Every time you defeat a temptation you’re choosing to grow more like Jesus Christ. What did Jesus use to combat temptation?
Get out of here, Satan,’ Jesus told him. ‘The scriptures say ‘Worship only the Lord God. Obey only Him.’
The Scriptures. The Sword of the Spirit. The Word of God. It is a defensive and offensive weapon. The more you know it, the more it will be the first thing in your mind when temptation arrises and you can use it to resist.
Temptation is not a good thing. It is brought on by the one who hates us. God lets him to a point so that we can learn to obey and make right choices. If there was never an option to sin, would it really be obedience?
Jesus said several times: “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.” For God, love and obedience are practically one and the same thing.
Obedience is all about love, or perhaps a better way to say it is that Love for God is all about obedience.
Jesus modeled obedience perfectly, even obeying to the point of death. Do you think it’s important?
Temptation is something every one of us faces. It never goes away. Let me give you a couple practical tips of how you can face it and make consistent right choices.
Two Tips to Tackling Temptation.
1. Keep focused on good thoughts. Or rather GOD thoughts. (fill in)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Temptations take root in the mind. If you want to resist temptation before it even shows up. Don’t give it fertile soil in your mind. Renew your mind with God’s word. Stop pouring junk in it. Start pouring God’s word into it. If you want the mind of Christ – you have to get His words in your head.
Then when temptations come, you will be equipped. Instead of dwelling on the temptation, you can shift your thoughts to what is true, noble, right, pure and so on. Don’t try to fight temptation. Don’t stare at a donut trying to will yourself not to eat it. Walk away. Look at something else. Counter it with scripture because you can’t speak scripture without thinking it, and if you are thinking scripture, guess what you are not thinking? You can’t focus on God and focus on temptation at the same time.
2. Get a spiritual partner (fill in)
Again, we are not meant to do this alone. This is level 3 and 4 fellowship. This is where life really gets better.
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
This is the theme of our Men’s Retreat this week. We are not meant to do this alone. In fact, we CAN’T do it alone – at least not for the long haul. This kind of friendship takes time, but an event like a Men’s Retreat or a Women’s Retreat can jumpstart it. Guys, we need this. And you know we do. It’s not too late to man up and come.
We all struggle with temptation. Your temptation is no better or worse than another’s. If you are getting close to someone, make the move. Start the conversation. Talk about being spiritual partners who will look out for each other. If you’ve ever struggled with a specific temptation and never seem to be able to beat it consistently, you need a spiritual partner. A good start is just to start reading the bible together – YouVersion on your phone, texting the “done” screen to each other.
You want to have better chances against temptation:
- FILL YOUR HEAD WITH GOD’S WORD
- DON’T FIGHT ALONE
So, God uses trouble to teach us to trust him, and he uses temptation to teach us to obey him.
3. He uses TRESPASSES to teach us TO FORGIVE. (fill in)
If trials are situations designed by God to draw us closer to Him and
temptations are situations designed by the devil to draw us away from GOD,
trespasses are situations designed by other people in order to hurt us.
The fact is in life you’re going to be hurt. This is not heaven. We live in a fallen world. Because you sin and I sin and everybody sins, we hurt each other. Sometimes Intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. But you’re going to be hurt. The Bible calls those hurts that we absorb from other people trespasses. That’s why in the Lord’s Prayer it says we are to forgive others their trespasses against us. You’re going to be hurt. And bearing the hurt of others is the most difficult and painful step in your spiritual growth. It’s the hardest thing to do and yet you have to learn to do it in order to become like Jesus Christ.
We’ve all been hurt by someone. Maybe you were stabbed in the back, criticized unfairly, misunderstood, verbally, emotionally, or physically abused. If you haven’t – you will be – at least some of these. And God expects us to forgive.
Let me be real clear about this. God hates these things. God is not the author of sin. God would never cause sin or condone sin.
But He’s NOT going to exempt you from experiencing these hurts – because His goal is character. He didn’t even exempt His own Son. Jesus whom He sent to earth was perfect yet Jesus experienced misunderstanding and false judgments and criticism and all kinds of abuse even a painful, horrible murder which He did not deserve. If God did not spare His own Son from these things why should we be treated any differently?
In this life, you are going to be hurt by people. But even in that hurt God has a greater purpose if you learn to forgive.
Jesus was no stranger to mistreatment – especially in His time of greatest grief.
People passing by shook their heads and hurled insults at Jesus. The elders made fun of Him. Even the bandits who had been crucified with Him insulted Him in the same way.
What was Jesus’ response?
Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive these people because they don’t know what they’re doing.
He yielded His right to get even. He responded to evil with good. You can say His response in one word – forgiveness.
If you’re going to become like Jesus Christ you’re going to have to learn to forgive the people who have hurt you.
If there is one character trait in Jesus that stands above the rest, it is His forgiveness. We are all partakers of that. We have all hurt Jesus in some way. And He forgives us.
God doesn’t need to orchestrate anything for you and I to get hurt by people. We do that on our own. But when it happens, God uses it as an opportunity to mold us as we respond like Christ – with forgiveness.
And we don’t forgive because they deserve it. They probably don’t. We forgive because we are forgiven.
This is the most difficult thing of all in the steps to maturity. So let me give you two suggestions – two little tools that will help you.
Two Tips to Toppling Trespasses
1. Remember how much God has forgiven me. (fill in)
If you think you can’t forgive someone – just remember how much you’ve been forgiven. Focus on the great debt that you owe that was paid in full with Christ’s own blood for you. You don’t deserve it. Yet forgiveness is yours. So, what right do you have to withhold the same from someone else?
Forgive others just as God forgave you because of Christ.
Imagine yourself looking Jesus in the eye as he hangs on the cross and saying “I appreciate you doing all this for me, but you just don’t know how much they hurt me…“
2. Remember God is in control. (fill in)
Yes those people may mean to hurt you. But even that is only allowed by God because He’s going to bring good out of it if you give it to Him.
If you want to put your pain in perspective, read the story of Joseph in the Bible. There are about twelve chapters on this guy in the book of Genesis. Joseph was the guy, remember, the younger brother in a big family. His brothers disliked him so much they took him and secretly sold him into slavery and then went back and told dad a bear at him. That’s what you call a dysfunctional family. Joseph is sold into slavery, taken to a foreign country (Egypt) sold to a man as a slave where he serves him faithfully. One day his boss’s wife tries to seduce him and being a godly man he says he’s not going to do that so she gets mad. She’s scorned. She’s spurned. She accuses him of rape. So he is falsely thrown into prison in a foreign country.
Nothing is going right in this guy’s life. The first 40 years of Joseph’s life was all downhill. Nothing good happened in Joseph’s life for 40 years. I’m sure he must have wondered, “God, what are You doing?” But he maintained a spirit, a heart of integrity. He trusted God. He obeyed God. And he forgave those who hurt him. And God had him exactly where He wanted him. One day in the scheme of things he was raised up out of that prison and you can read the story how it happened to become Pharaoh’s number two man – the second most powerful man in the most powerful country in the world and he wasn’t even from Egypt. He comes up with a scheme to save the nation from famine and not only that – other nations. When the famine hits the world his own brothers come to Egypt to get the food they need and when they discover that the guy in charge of food distribution is the brother they betrayed they think, “We’ve had it! It’s curtains for us! He’s going to kill us, we’re sure.” Yet Joseph when he saw his brothers said this –
You meant to hurt me but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people which is being done.
Circle “save the lives.” God often will use hurt in your life for the benefit of other people.
Remember week 1? It’s not about you. It’s not about me. This is God’s story and we are supporting cast. What others mean to harm us, God uses for good – both in making you more like Christ, but also as part of his bigger plan for all mankind.
So, the third of the five purposes for your life is that you are Created to Become Like Christ.
It’s been the plan all along. And it’s all about character. God wants you and I to have the character of Christ.
And to get it we have to be immersed in His Word. And we need to endure trouble, temptation, and trespasses TOGETHER.
If we keep all of that in the perspective that this life is so short compared to the eternity of glory we are promised, it makes it seem doable. Not easy, but doable. At least we get to do it together. Jesus had to do it alone.