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Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I Have a NEW Mind!

Copyright April 28, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Romans 12:1-3

Introduction 
           I was in the choir room with the choir warming up for our anthem just a few minutes ago.  Sarah asked if anyone had accidentally picked up her reading glasses from the piano.  Kathy, who'd just been sitting at the piano and was holding a pair of reading glasses in her hand said, "No.  I promise. these are my reading glasses."  Kathy's sister, Sally, said, "Uh, Kathy.  You have a pair of reading glasses on your head!"  Sure enough, she did!  And they were the exact same style as Sarah's!  Kathy Said, "I'm losing my mind!"  We all had a good laugh.
            We use that expression, "I'm losing my mind," as a bad thing.  But the truth is, if we follow Christ, we are losing our old mind and Christ is giving us a NEW mind.  And that's what I want to talk about today. 

Romans 12:1-3
1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Explain the Passage
          The Apostle Paul gives us the image of a sacrifice placed on an altar.  At the time Paul wrote, animal sacrifice was a common religious practice—for both Jews and Gentiles.  A living animal was usually placed on an altar, its throat cut so the blood would drain out along with the animal’s life.  Then the animal would be butchered, cooked over fire, and eaten, or completely incinerated with fire.  As you can imagine, it was a startling thing to behold—something that left a lasting impression.  The point is a sacrifice was complete and irrevocable.  Right?  You can’t make half a sacrifice.  You can’t make a sacrifice and then take it back.  It’s an all or nothing proposal.  (At least for the animal!)
            But Paul turns the tables on us.  He invites us to leave the animals alone.  Instead, he urges us to put our life on the altar.  Give your own body—all that you are—as a living sacrifice.  It’s not human sacrifice he is asking; it’s self-sacrifice.  It’s surrendering all that you have and all that you are to the will of God.  It’s an “all-in” whole-hearted proposition that is true worship—truly pleasing to God—and it changes everything.
            It’s what Jesus did for us, you see.  Christ gave himself completely for us on the cross.  He didn’t just do some good things.  He didn’t just preach some great sermons.  Jesus gave everything.  He was whole-heartedly committed to God’s plan of salvation for you.  He willingly sacrificed his entire life for you—even when it meant dying on a cross.
            And Christ’s sacrifice makes it is possible for us to be made NEW!  We can have NEW desires, a NEW way of thinking, a NEW purpose in life, NEW peace and joy and confidence, and ultimately the promise of eternal life with a NEW heaven and a NEW earth.  But in order for the NEW to come, we have to let the old die.  In fact, we have to trust Jesus enough to place our old self—our old ways of thinking and living—on the altar as a sacrifice.  For when you sacrifice our old life, Jesus will make you NEW!

Thought Transformation
The key verse for us today is verse 2a – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Most of us grow up copying the behavior and customs of the world.  We do the things people around us do because we think the way they do.  In fact, if we ever see someone who acts or thinks in a way that in noticeably different, we might even call them weird.  I know when I was in high school, I had a few friends who lived out their Christian beliefs very faithfully.  At the time, I thought they were very weird because they didn’t act and talk and think the way most high school students did.  They stood out.  They were “weird.”  At the time, I thought they should just “copy the behavior and customs” of everyone else.  Now I see they were the minority that was really doing what God wanted.  Now I wish I had been part of that minority when I was in high school.  Now, I am—or at least I am striving to be—because I am striving to let God transform me into a NEW person.  So what if it makes me different.  So what if it makes me weird.  If it makes me more like Christ, great!
We all need to let God transform the way we think.  Romans 12:3 says, Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  So let’s apply this wisdom and think clearly and honestly about ourselves.
First of all, you are not the center of the world.  Regardless of what the unbelieving world insinuates, the world doesn’t revolve around you.  You are not entitled to “Have it your way.”  Your own personal happiness is not the chief goal in life.  In fact, if you faithfully follow Christ and live for God the way He intended for you, you will definitely need to give up some things you want.  It is a sacrifice.  (Remember how our scripture said to sacrifice yourself to God?)  Following Christ means letting go of our selfish desires, our self-centered motives, and serving others instead of ourselves.  This is tough for many people, but we need to let God transform our way of thinking.
Some people think too highly of themselves.  Others struggle with thoughts that they are not important or that they are not good enough.  That’s why I like Romans 12:3 so much.  It addresses both misunderstandings.  It says, “Be honest in you evaluation of yourself.”  And the Truth is, (though you are not the center of the world) you are very important to God.  God deeply loves you.  He has been working out your salvation since the beginning of time.  He cared enough to send Christ to die for you.  God wants you to be part of His mission to save the world.  That’s pretty impressive.  You must be important!  So if you struggle with low self-esteem, let God transform the way you think.  You are precious to Him.
Do you struggle with shame or guilty?  God has promised He will forgive you if you ask.  No matter what you’ve done—how big or how small—God will forgive you.  1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  Shame and guilt can cripple us.  It makes us hesitant in our relationship with God and others.  Shame and guilt are constant burdens that weigh us down and slow us down in our spiritual life.  They sap the joy God wants us to have.  They can make life weary and full of worry.  So if you struggle with shame or guilt, let God transform the way you think.  The truth is, forgiveness is available through faith in Christ.  And if you believe, God does not think about your sins anymore.  They have been washed away.  God says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”  If you asked God to forgive you, He has.  Now it’s time for you to let go of your thoughts of shame and guilt.  Let God transform the way you think.
Some of you may struggle with doubt.  The unbelieving world says this world is all there is.  Since science cannot verify the existence of an afterlife, they reject the idea as a fantasy.  Since they cannot see God, they reason He is just a myth.  But faith helps us see that there is more to life than just what you can see and hear and taste and touch.  Faith helps us to know that Truth is more than just facts and figures.  Faith helps us to see there is always hope even when all seems to be lost.  Faith helps us to know that the future is ultimately in God’s hands and so, there is nothing to fear.  Faith helps us to hear God’s still small voice leading us down the right path.  Faith helps us to feel God’s presence when we need assurance that everything is going to be alright.  Even if we lose this life, God has another waiting for us in Eternity.  And all the wrongs of this world will ultimately be made right one day.  It’s OK to have questions.  It’s OK to have doubts.  Sometimes they lead us to deeper understanding and faith.  But if your doubts control you or keep you frozen with fear, maybe it’s time to let God transform the way you think.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  Take hold of the power, love, and self-discipline God wants you to have.  Let Him transform the way you think. 

Conclusion
            As I close, I join with the Apostle Paul and plead with you, give your bodies to God as a holy and living sacrifice.  Don’t hold anything back.  Surrender yourself completely to the Lord and He will transform your mind.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell...

Great Books to Read
Copyright March 24, 2015 by Chris Mullis 
 
Proverbs 18:15 – “Intelligent people are always ready to learn.  Their ears are open for knowledge.”

            I did not like school when I was a kid.  Even though I made good grades, it was boring to me.  I couldn’t wait to finish school so I didn’t have to go anymore.  However, my Mom told me, “You should never stop learning.  You should try to learn something new every day, even after you are done with school.”
            Now that I am grown and finished with my formal education, I find I still want to learn.  I enjoy science and history.  I like to learn new skills and understand how things work.  I also enjoy listening to audiobooks and find it is an excellent way to learn.  At the end of this article, you will find a list of some of the best books I’ve read that I recommend to you (in no particular order).
The Bible – Whether or not you read any other book, please read this one.  Sadly, only 19% of church-going Christians report they read their Bible every day yet we watch an average of 5 hours of TV a day.  I challenge you to pick up your Bible and start in Matthew and read at least one chapter a day.  It will take about 5 minutes a day and you will read the entire New Testament in one year.  It’s time every Christian rediscovers the Bible and makes a commitment to read it.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

God loves you and so do I!
 

 

 

 

 

 
Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith – The captivating story of Ashley Smith, a recovering drug addict, who was abducted and held hostage in her apartment in 2005 by Atlanta courthouse killer Brian Nichols.  Perhaps you remember the headlines that gripped the world, but you need to read the amazing story of how God changed everything for Ashley.
 
As We Forgive by Catherine Larson – This is an excellent book that examines forgiveness and reconciliation.  Retelling the stories of survivors of the Rwandan genocide who learned to forgive and reconcile with the very people who committed the atrocities.  This is a book that everyone should read to understand the amazing healing available through Christian forgiveness.
 
Is God Anti-Gay by Sam Allberry – Everyone is talking about gay marriage and public opinion is shifting on the issue.  What does God say?  In this very easy-to-read and understand book, Allberry (a pastor who struggles with same-sex attraction) teaches God’s position on the issue according to the Bible.  This is an excellent book that almost anyone can read and it is very timely for what is going on in our world.
 
Heaven is for Real by Lynn Vincent and Todd Burpo – I did not like the movie very much, but the book is excellent and thought provoking true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven.  He survives and begins talking about his experience to his parents.
 
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller – This book fundamentally reshaped the way I think about this famous passage from Luke 15.  Jesus told this story more for the “good” people of the world than for those who have strayed.
 
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – This Christian classic is an intellectual read, but Lewis does a masterful job explaining what Christianity is at its most foundational level.  If you can handle a heavier reading, this is a great book to read.
 
 1493 by Charles Mann – This is not a religious book and it’s long and it may not be for everyone.  However, this is a great book if you love history like me.  The book examines the dramatic ways our world changed as a result of Columbus’ discovery of the new world.  Everything from our food to where we lived was forever altered by what Mann calls the “Columbian exchange.”  It shifted my understanding of how our modern globalized world came into existence.

Endurance by Alfred Lancing – Another history book, Endurance chronicles the saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas.  The book made me think, “If this crew could survive this harrowing adventure, I can survive any struggle that may come my way.”
 
 Unbroken by Laura Hillderbrand – The riveting story of Olympian and WWII war hero Louis Zamperini’s life.  The book was recently made into a blockbuster movie, but the movie only scratches the surface of Zamperini’s life and leaves out critical portions of how Louis came to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade and latter spent his life facilitating a Christian Camp for troubled boys.  Do yourself a favor and choose the book over the movie.

 
More Great Books I Would Recommend:
·       Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel
·       The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
·       Words to Eat By by Ina Lipkowitz
·       Killing Jesus by Martin Dugard and Bill O’Reilly
·       Developing the Leader Within by John Maxwell
·       Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
·       Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
·       The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
·       Dune by Frank Herbert
·       Deliverance by James Dickey
·       The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Bob DeMoss and Rebecca Alonzo
·       The Unchurched Next Door by Thom Rainer
·       When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg
·       Alter Ego by Craig Groeshcel
·       The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
·       One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
·       Enough by Adam Hamilton
·       Radical by David Platt
·       The Pastor by Eugene Peterson
·       Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman
·       Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent
·       Crazy Love by Francis Chan
·       Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck
·       Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur
·       Patriotic Fire by Winston Groom
·       Plan B by Pete Wilson
 

 

Monday, March 23, 2015

3. Get Rid of Distractions

Copyright March 16, 2015 by Chris Mullis
John 2:13-16

Introduction
            Life is hectic.  There are so many demands on our attention.  Work demands our attention.  Telephones ring.  Kids need to be fed and shuttled to and from school and practice.  The church and PTA need volunteers.  We have appointments to make and deadlines to meet.  All these distractions make it difficult to focus on what’s really important.
            God knew our lives would be hectic.  That’s why He gave us a special day to rest and worship—the Sabbath Day.  In the beginning, the Sabbath was on the seventh day—Saturday—for on the seventh day of creation in Genesis, God rested.  But Jesus rose from the grave on a Sunday, which came to be called “The Lord’s Day.”  And it didn’t take long for almost all Christians to choose Sunday as their primary day for worship.
            So we come here to the “Sanctuary,” a place that is safe and holy, a place designated to worship God.  We seek to forget the cares and concerns of the world for a time and focus on Christ.  And as we do, we hope to find some clarity about what’s really important in life so we go back out into the hectic world centered and balanced once more.
            Many things distract us—things that aren’t really important, things that lead us astray, things that might be good, but just are not right for us at this time.  Most of us don’t take time to examine our lives close enough to determine what our priorities are.  So today I want to focus on getting rid of distractions in your life and focusing on the priorities God has set for you.  Let’s go to the Bible and look at a time when Jesus got rid of the distractions in the Temple.

John 2:13-16
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.
  • Jews all over the world in Jesus day dreamed of going to the Passover celebration in the Jerusalem Temple.  People came from all over the world.  It was not uncommon to have over 2 million people in the holy city for the Passover.  Throngs of people hoping to worship God on this sacred occasion.  Yet when they arrived,  they found a ruthless system designed to exploit them.  Every man 20 years and older had to pay a Temple tax, which was about a day and a half’s wages for the average man (roughly $150 by today’s standards) [i].  The money was used for the upkeep of the Temple and ongoing construction projects.  That’s not so bad.  It did take money to maintain the Temple.  But it got worse, because the tax couldn’t be paid in foreign money. The Roman, Greek, and Egyptian coins most people carried had to be converted to Temple money—the Shekel.  There were money changers stationed all over the Temple for this purpose and each one charged for their services.  What it all boiled down to is it could cost you an additional $100 just to change your money to the right currency!  It angered Jesus that such a heavy burden was laid upon these already poor, working class people.
15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
  • As if the exorbitant fees of the money changers weren’t bad enough, it got even worse.  You see, most people visiting the Temple would need to sacrifice an animal during worship.  If you were poor, you could buy a pair of doves to sacrifice for about $100 if you bought them outside the Temple (or you could bring your own).  But all animals had to be inspected by the Temple authorities to make sure there weren’t any blemishes (and it cost $25 to get the inspection).  And (who would’ve guessed) almost all animals bought or brought from outside the Temple would inevitably fail inspection.  Not to worry though.  You could buy a replacement inside the Temple—at an additional cost.  The same pair of doves that cost $100 outside the Temple cost $1,875 inside the Temple[ii]! (And you thought the markup on movie theater popcorn was bad!)
  • And of course all this buying and selling and the inevitable arguments and angry people being ripped off was an unbearable distraction to worship.  And it took place in the Temple in the court of the Gentiles—which was the only place Gentiles were allowed to worship God.  Jewish people had other places to worship, but Gentiles only had this raucous outer courtyard in which to pray.  Jesus was filled with righteous anger and he chased everyone out.
Distractions and Purpose
            Our world is full of distractions and if we’re not careful, our lives can become consumed with things that have little or nothing to do with why God put us here.  Like the noisy, busy money changers and livestock sellers in the Temple, these distractions rob us of our time and money—something of which we already have too little.  Perhaps it’s time to purify our lives just as Jesus cleansed the Temple.  You have to decide:  Do you want to waste your precious resources on things that ultimately aren’t important or do you want to spend your time and money on things that really matter?
In 2002, Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, wrote an amazing book called The Purpose Driven Life that lays out the 5 main purposes for your life.  If you aim for these, you will do things that matter and you will find great fulfillment as you live out God’s purposes for your life: [iii]     
1.     You were made to worship God.  You weren’t put here for your own pleasure.  You were  How much of your time and money do you spend worshipping God? put here to glorify God, to love Him, and to be amazed by Him.

2.     You weren’t meant to be alone.  You were made to be part of God’s family, where you are loved, accepted, encouraged, and held accountable.  You need good people in your life and they need you.  How much of our resources are devoted to relationships with the family of God, the Church?

3.     You were created to become like Christ.  You are here to learn and improve your character.  This life is an incredible training program to prepare your soul to be the image of God.  Don’t pretend to be perfect.  Be real about your shortcomings and be willing to work on them.  How hard do you train to become more like Christ?

4.     You are here to serve.  Even Jesus said he came into the world to serve and not to be served.  How much more true it is for you!  It might seem counter-intuitive to find happiness by serving others, but you were designed to serve; and in doing so you will find great fulfillment.  How much of your life is devoted to serving other?

5.     You were made for a mission—to tell people what Jesus has done for you.  Jesus commanded us to do this and promised to help.  You don’t have to be a preacher or Sunday school teacher to do it.  You just have to be honest and share your experience.  If Jesus has changed your life, tell people.  If he hasn’t changed your life (or if you don’t think he will), why are you even here? 

Examine Your Life
            I think Rick Warren nailed it with these five purposes.  Maybe you don’t agree, but have you ever really examined your life to see what it’s all about?  What on earth are you here for?  You have a purpose.  What is it?  And are you doing things that move you closer to your goals or distract you from them?
Most people never take the time to consider these things.  They just float along the river of life, going wherever the current leads.  It’s sad to think of all that could be accomplished if people would just wake up from their slumber and start living out their purpose.  If only people would come alive and choose to live for a higher purpose, the world would be forever changed.

            The violence Jesus demonstrated as he cleansed the Temple often disturbs people.  It upsets our image of Jesus as a meek, peaceful holy man.  We like the Jesus who gently welcomed children and carried lambs in his arms.  Who is this Jesus who angrily chased the money changers from the Temple while cracking a whip? 
            When it comes to things that distract us from God and thus do damage to our soul, we need to be more like the Jesus carrying the whip than the Jesus carrying the lamb.  The story conveys the seriousness of distractions.  They need to be dealt with now.  Chase away those things that rob your life of significance.  Turn over the tables of anything that keeps you from God’s purposes.  Drive away the animals that cannot help you fulfill God’s plan.  Reject a fallen world that tells you to get in line with everyone else that’s wasting their life.  Turn instead to the Lord who created you who wants to free you to live a life full of meaning.  For if you don’t you will surely spend your whole life doing things that don’t really matter and will have no lasting value.  You will come to your end full of regrets, wondering how time slipped away so fast, and lamenting that your life didn’t really matter much.
 Challenge
            Thus far in this series, I have given you 2 challenges:  1) Start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter every day and finish Matthew by Easter.  2) Last week, I challenged you to make a list of all the things you typically do and your motives. 
            Today, I give you a new challenge to help you purify your life.  This week, I want you to prayerfully consider your priorities.  What are you trying to accomplish in life?  What’s your purpose?  Write down the 5 most important purposes of your life.  (A form is included at the bottom of the blog to help you.)  And then for each one, write down things you can do that will help you fulfill those purposes.  Then pray and ask God to help you make these top priorities in your life—the things to which you devote the majority of your time, money, and resources.  Then zealously get rid of anythings that distract you so you will have enough time to do more important things.

Invitation
            The most important thing you can do to start is ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.  If you haven't done that already, why don't you do that today?  Pray to Jesus and ask Him to forgive you for your sin and for trying to do things you won way.  Ask Jesus to come be the Lord of your life--to be in charge.  And ask Him to lead you and help you follow Him from this day forward.

I Challenge You!
Step One.  List the 5 Most Important Purposes of Your Life:
 
Purpose 1 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 2 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 3 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 4 _____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
Purpose 5_____________________________________________________________________
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Step 2.  Now, go back and under each purpose list some things you can do to help you fulfill each purpose.
 
Step 3.  Pray and ask God to help you make these top priorities in your life—the things to which you devote the majority of your time, money, and resources.


[i] William Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of John Colume 1 revised edition; page 109
[ii] William Barclay – The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of John Colume 1 revised edition; page 109
[iii] Based on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life

Monday, March 16, 2015

2. Get Rid of Selfish Motives


Copyright March 10, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Mark 8:31-38

Introduction
            The Season of Lent, which is the 40 day period leading up to Easter, is a great time to take stock of your life.  We derive this 40-day period from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting as he prepared to begin his public ministry.  Fasting is depriving your physical body of food to help induce a more spiritual experience.  Some people give up food or other things during Lent to help them focus more on their relationship with God.  But the whole point is to get rid of anything in your life that distracts you from what’s most important—a pure relationship with Christ.
stock of your life.
            Last Sunday, we started a message series to help you purify your life and draw closer to Christ.  Just as we cleaned up our church building last week, we seek to clean up our lives so we can better focus on the Lord.  Last week, I encouraged you to spend more time reading the Bible.  I challenged you to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter every day—and so read the entire Book of Matthew by Easter.  Today, I want to challenge you to get rid of selfish motives.  Let’s read together what Jesus had to say about selfish motives.

Mark 8:31-38
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.
  • Jesus begins by explaining God’s master plan to save humanity from sin and its consequences.  Sin leads to pain and death and eternal separation from God.  When I was a kid, my church explained all this in simple terms that I could easily understand.  They said, “Everyone sins and falls short of God’s glorious standards.  And the consequences of sin are death.  When you die, you will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.  Because we all sin, we all deserve Hell—which is an eternal punishment you can’t even imagine.  But because God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to save us.  And if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and follow him, we will spend eternity in Heaven—where there will be no more sin or suffering or sickness or tears or death.  This salvation is made possible because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  And here in this passage before it ever happens, Jesus explains the Master’s plan.
32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
  • Peter did not want Jesus to die.  In general, we don’t want anyone to die—especially people we love.  But let’s not pass over this too quickly or we will miss something important about Peter’s motive.  Why doesn’t Peter want Jesus to die?
    • First of all, it didn’t make sense to Peter.  His vision was too small.  People tend to have very limited perspective.  We think in terms of what’s going on in our lives, right now.  Not many of us have a greater vision to think about what will be happening ten years from now or even one year from now.  And we rarely think very much about what’s going on in other people’s lives or what will be going on in their lives in the years ahead.  We are pretty focused on ourselves in the here and now.  But God thinks in broader terms.  He sees the here and now, but also one year from now, ten years from now, and ten thousand years from now.  Consider this:  as Jesus explained his plan to his disciples in this passage 2,000 years ago, he was thinking how you would be sitting here in this church right now contemplating it.  He saw how his actions would directly affect you, your children, grandchildren and your descendants another 1,000 years from today.  But Peter’s vision was small.  And Peter didn’t want Jesus to die because Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t want harm to come to him.  
    • Peter didn’t want to lose Jesus.  This is one type of love (from the Greek word for love: phileo—which we studied a few weeks ago).  It is a somewhat selfish kind of love.  It is more about our desires than the actual wants and needs of the one we “love.”  This is a common form of love we see throughout the world.  You see, Peter did not want to be apart from Jesus.  Maybe he even felt he couldn’t bear to be without Jesus if he died.  This kind of love is motivated more by what Peter wants than what Jesus wants or even what is best for Jesus or the world.  But the highest form of love is another Greek word often used in the Bible: Agape.  Agape is the love that abandons its own selfish desires and works for the good of others, with no conditions and without any expectation of receiving something in return.  This is the love that motivated Jesus to die on the cross for our sin.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
  • It might seem strange that Jesus would rebuke Peter so sternly—even calling him Satan.  Yet, Peter’s motives were selfish.  There was a type of love in him, but it was mixed with impurity too.  In fact, what Peter was doing was not much different from what Satan once did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  When Jesus went into the wilderness fasting for 40 days in Matthew chapter 4, Satan tempted him to eat something.  “Tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)  And Satan offered to give Jesus “All the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (verses 8-9), if only Jesus would bow down and worship Satan.  Peter wasn’t asking Jesus to bow down and worship him, but he was asking Jesus to bend away from God’s perfect salvation plan in favor of Peter’s lesser, worldly desires.  In Peter’s eyes, Jesus was on the verge of a gaining the popular support of the people; couple that with Jesus’ amazing power and Peter thought they could set up an earthly Kingdom of unequaled justice and righteousness.  But this was not God’s plan.  So Jesus said to Peter almost the same thing he said to Satan in the wilderness.  “Get away from me, Satan!”  And then Jesus explains the pure motives that must guide our thoughts and actions if we are his followers.

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Jesus taught being his follower means getting rid of our selfish motives and letting Agape love motivate everything we do.  Just as Jesus was willing to lay down his own life for the sake of others, we should do what’s best for others—even if they don’t deserve it or plan to do anything for us.  What a difference it makes when you finally decide to get rid of your selfish motives and let Love guide all your actions! 

What Motivates You?
            Why do you come to church?  Why do you go to work? Why do you support your wife and kids?  Why do you do the things you do?  There are many different motives for the things we do.  And sometimes our motives are not too pure.  I suppose we would be here all day if we tried to list them all.  So I’ll just list the first four that come to mind.
The first is pseudo-love.  We already talked about how Peter “loved” Jesus and didn’t want to lose him.  I call this “pseudo-love” because it is “like” love, but it is not Agape Love (the selfless, unconditional love God wants us to practice).  It is the love of a mother who “smothers” her children—who loves them so much, she can’t give them the space they need to grow into individuals, but must hover over them at all times.  The truth is, helicopter parents practice a selfish kind of love.  Really, they are using their kids to satisfy a deep longing in their own lives.  And this is not true love.  It is not the motive God wants us to have.  And if this is the kind of love that motivates you—whether you be a helicopter parent, a jealous boyfriend (or girlfriend or just friend), or anyone who is motivated by your own intense desires for the companionship of someone else, you need to get rid of your false motive.
Another false motive is greed.  Are you motivated by your intense longing for more wealth, possessions, or power?  Do you always want to have the latest gadget, the biggest house, the fanciest car?  Do you always feel like no matter how good the stuff you already have is you always need something a little better?  These are all forms of greed, which is a powerful motivation in our society.  But God doesn’t want us to be motivated by greed.  Perhaps you need to get rid of this false motive.
Pride.  Are you overly concerned about preserving your own dignity?  Do you have an excessively high opinion of your importance?  Or conversely, are you always concerned with what others think about you?  These are all forms of pride, arrogance, vanity…  The Bible does not speak highly of pride.  Rather, Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”  Jesus listed pride as one of the vile things that comes from an evil heart—alongside adultery, greed, and wickedness (Mark 7:22).  If Pride, vanity, self-importance, or arrogance motivates your actions, it’s time to get rid of your false motives.
Control.  Do you always need to be in control?  Does everything have to be done a certain way—your way?  Do you have to be intimately involved in every decision your kids or your spouse makes?  Is it almost impossible for you to delegate responsibilities to someone else because you’re afraid they won’t do it the way you would?  Do you find it incredibly annoying to work with others as a team because you’d rather just do it your own way?  If you find it unnerving to let go of control, then it’s probably time to get rid of your false motive of control.  Let me let you in on little secret.  You are not in control anyway.  And all your annoying efforts to keep things “under control” are not pleasing to God.  It’s time to stop trying to run the world around you and learn to trust God (and other people too).
One more—pleasure.  We live in a world that says, “If it makes you happy, do it.”  “Follow your own heart.”  “Have it your way.”  It sounds harmless, but if the desire for pleasure motivates you, you need to get rid of this false motive.  God calls us to be motivated by love.  And quite often real love motivates us to do things that are not pleasurable—sometimes things that are very hard.  That’s why when we get married, we promise to love our spouse “In good times and bad times, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, until death …” I’m so Glad Jesus wasn’t motivated by the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  For it was not pleasurable to hang on the cross for our sins.  And yet, because he loved us, this is exactly what he did.  What about you?  Perhaps it’s time to get rid of your false motives. 

Challenge
            Last week, I challenged you to read your Bible more—to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter a day.  I hope you have accepted my challenge and have been reading.  If not, it’s not too late to start today.
This week, I want to give you a new challenge to add to the one from last week.  This week, I want you to make a list of what motivates you to do the things you do.  Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper.  Prayerfully list out all the things you typically do each day.  Be specific.  Get up and take a shower, take the kids to school, go to work, talk to a friend on the phone, go to the grocery store, cook dinner, etc.  Now think deeply about why you do these various things.  What is your motive for each one?  Why do you do it?  Right down your motives for each thing.  Ask yourself:  are my motives pure?  Would Jesus be happy about my motive for doing this?  How much is this motivated by pure love (Agape)?  What motives do I need to get rid of?  How might I let my actions be guided more by love?  I challenge you to make a list this week and pray that God would help you be motivated more by love.