SUCCESS IN CHRIST
I think that I can say with some degree of confidence that there are many people in this room this morning that would like to be better Christians. I would include myself in that statement, and I can speak for my wife as well. I KNOW, without a doubt that many people here today, as well as many people who are not here in this room this morning, are slightly confused about what a “better” Christian is, and/or should look like. I believe in my heart, that many of us make a great effort to be better examples of what Christians are, each and every day, and yet we feel as if we fail in our attempts. The key is that we feel BLOCKED, as if the world, other people and our circumstances keep us from achieving our goal of being good examples of Christ. We set out with great intentions and find ourselves losing our focus because of the actions of another person or people that we have absolutely no control over.
I based this sermon on many of the things that I have read from a best selling book by Neil Anderson entitled “Victory Over Darkness” , a book I highly recommend for ALL Christians no matter where they may think they are in their walk with Christ. I would like to start this sermon series out with a story taken from that book that shows how other people can sometimes block our best intentions.
He says; “A few years ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at a church retreat the weekend after Mother’s Day. A month before the retreat, the pastor called to tell me that the conference center had been doubled booked, so their retreat had to be moved ahead one week. He asked if I could still be there the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Mother’s Day weekend.
I wasn’t about to schedule anything that would take me away from my family on Mother’s Day, but my wife, Joanne, overheard the conversation and suggested I go ahead with the retreat. I told her I didn’t want to be away on her special day, but she insisted I go. So I did.
During a break in the retreat, I visited the little gift shop on the grounds and got a wonderful idea for making up to my family for being gone on Mother’s Day. One of the gift items in the shop was a cute little basket containing a package of muffin mix and a jar of apple jelly. I decided I would get up early on Monday morning and fix a delicious, banquet style breakfast for Joanne, Heidi and Karl – complete with eggs, sausage and muffins.
So on Monday morning I rose with the chickens and started making breakfast. I was stirring the muffin mix, singing and feeling great when Karl wandered into the kitchen. He grabbed a box of cereal and an empty bowl and headed for the table.
“Hey, Karl, just a second. We’re not having cereal this morning. We’re going to sit around the table together and have a big breakfast with muffins.”
“I don’t like muffins, Dad.” He mumbled, opening the cereal box. “Wait, Karl,” I insisted, starting to get annoyed. “We’re going to sit around the table together and have a big breakfast with muffins.” “But I don’t like muffins, Dad,” he repeated as got ready to fill his bowl.
I lost it. “Karl, we’re going to sit around the table together and have a big breakfast with muffin!” I barked. Karl closed the cereal box, threw it into the cupboard and stomped back to his room. The kid had blocked my goal!!
When I realized what I had done, I went to Karl’s room and said, “I’m sorry, son. You can have cereal.” He said, “I don’t like cereal.”
I think ALL of us can relate to this simple story, and those of us who remember what it is like to raise teenagers, can truly empathize with this story. People and things will BLOCK our greatest efforts to be more like Christ. BUT, the truth is simple, GOD wants us to succeed, and although we have NO CONTROL over the actions of other people, we can change ourselves.
This morning I would like to start a series of sermons called “Success In Christ” and the key word in the title is not SUCCESS, and it is not CHRIST, the key word in that little 2 letter word in the middle IN.
If you have your Bible with you this morning, I would like you to turn with me to 2nd Peter, chapter 1 and we will read verses, 3-11. Then I would like to read the same passage of scripture from the Living Version, and then we will take the scripture apart a section at a time to discuss this great TRUTH. I will read and reread this passage each week for the next few weeks, and perhaps God will touch you heart and mine and help us to find SUCCESS IN CHRIST.
2 Peter 1:3-11 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now indulge me as we read the same passage from the Living version of the Bible
2 Peter 1:3-11 For as you know him better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: he even shares his own glory and his own goodness with us! 4 And by that same mighty power he has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings he promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us his own character. 5 But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what he wants you to do. 6 Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have his way with you. 7 This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply. 8 The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But anyone who fails to go after these additions to faith is blind indeed, or at least very shortsighted and has forgotten that God delivered him from the old life of sin so that now he can live a strong, good life for the Lord. 10 So, dear brothers, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen, and then you will never stumble or fall away. 11 And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This morning I would like to dwell only on three points about Success in Christ:
SUCCESS IN CHRIST:
1. Is KNOWING HIM
2. Is sharing in His GLORY & GOODNESS
3. Comes with GREAT PROMISES
I. SUCCESS IN CHRIST IS KNOWING HIM
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him NIV
3 For as you know him better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: TLB
What does it mean to know God? If you remember a few weeks back we read the passage in Matthew where Jesus looked at those who claimed to be great servants of His, they had drove out demons and prophesied in His name, and performed miracles. But Jesus said, “I will tell them plainly, I NEVER KNEW YOU, away from me you evil-doers.” What we do, is only SUCCESSFUL if we do it KNOWING Jesus. Now, I am sure many here today, “Well I KNOW Jesus.” But, perhaps we don’t truly understand the impact of the word, “KNOW.”
The word used in Matthew for KNEW is the same word used when two people have intimate relations. It is a word that means two people are VERY CLOSE, not casual acquaintances. To KNOW Jesus, is to truly have a deep, intimate, bonding relationship with Him. It is in that deep, intimate relationship that He provides for us EVERYTHING WE NEED to be successful.
3 For as you know him better, he will give you, through his great power, everything you need for living a truly good life:
An intimate relationship is one where we are perfectly honest with the other. It is one that has no secrets and there is total honesty. KNOWING Christ allows us to be honest with Him and with ourselves. It is a relationship where we don’t attempt to be something He has no made us to be, but a relationship where we accept ourselves for what He has made us to be.
KNOWING Christ, is NOT trying to be gifted in an area where He has not gifted us:
S. I. McMillen, in his book "None of These Diseases," tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, "Are you a leader?" Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, "No," and returned the application, expecting the worst.
To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower."
KNOWING Christ is accepting ourselves for what we are IN Him. It is an intimate relationship with Him that enables us to be ourselves. So many people miss this point of KNOWING Him because they are busy trying to please other people, when in fact the only one we need to please is Christ Himself.
Gal 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Success in Christ is KNOWING HIM, in an intimate and very close relationship.
II. SUCCESS IN CHRIST IS SHARING IN HIS GLORY & GOODNESS
2 Peter 1:3 He even shares his own glory and his own goodness with us! TLB
What does it mean to share in the glory and goodness of Jesus Christ? It means we have the power, through our knowing Him, to be like Him, to share in the glory of someone, is to mimic them to the point of being LIKE them. Do you share in the glory of God? When people look at you do they see Jesus?
Does your life reflect the glory of God and the goodness that is God?
Too many times people want glory just for themselves.
Sometimes football players score a touchdown and do a dance wanting everyone to applaud them and their greatness.
Sometimes baseball players hit a homerun and prance around the bases. They want the crowds to worship and adore them.
If we want to stay on the right road, we need to seek to glorify God with our lives.
I was looking at the full moon a while back. So full, so bright. Then I realized it is only bright because of the sun. In our lives, we need to reflect the light and glory of God in our lives.
There are going to be things happen to you in this life that will make you cling to that eternal hope because there is no other. Wally and Barbara Rendel know that’s true. Wally is the minister at the Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington and has been for over 20 years. But five years ago they got the phone call that every parent dreads. Late one night an Ohio State Trooper told them that their 21 year old daughter Jill was killed when the van that she was riding in with the rest of the girls basketball team from her college had overturned. Jill was vivacious, she was on the dean’s list, she was popular, even been selected by her student body as Homecoming Queen just several days before she was killed. She was a Daddy’s girl. I understand that a week before she died that she was home in Lexington and sat on her Dad’s lap for an hour just joking around. When Wally and Barbara received the tragic news that Jill had been killed they were devastated. But within minutes, because of his faith, this Dad through tears said, "The Queen has gone home to be with the King." Say what you will, there is something markedly different about the way mature Christians face death. Paul said, "We grieve, but not as those who have no hope."
The funeral for Jill Rendel was packed. Over a thousand people came. I understand that it was a funeral that was a little different for some. It was not a dirge of sadness but a celebration of Jill’s ultimate victory in Christ and our promise of life eternal. Toward the end of the service a young man sang a most moving song. It’s entitled, "I fell on my knees and cried Holy." The song says, "I dreamed of a city called glory, so bright and so fair. When I entered the gates I cried holy, the angels all met with me there. They carried me from mansion to mansion. Oh, the sights that I saw. Then I said, "I want to see Jesus, for He’s the one who died for all." The second time that he sang, "I want to see Jesus.." Wally and Barbara, who sat within reach of their daughter’s casket stood and raised their hands to heaven and at once all 1000 people who were there spontaneously stood with them, praising God. And then Wayne Smith a long time friend of Wally’s came to the front and closed the service with these words: "Life is too short and death too sure to spend them on trifle’s.” And then he read this poem which he said were Jill’s words to all of us.. ’Grieve not for me. Nor let one small tear fall. What you dream of, I can see and I’m telling you, it’s worth it all!" And immediately the entire congregation burst into applause. That’s possible for one reason and one reason only.. because we can believe the Risen Christ who said, "I am the resurrection and the Life. Because I live, you will live also."
III. SUCCESS IN CHRIST COMES WITH GREAT PROMISES
Finally, this morning I want you to look with me at verse 4. Both in the NIV and the LIVING version.
2 Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:4 And by that same mighty power he has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings he promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us his own character. TLB
HE PROMISED and God is good for His promises, He is one you can always count on, He is one that will never leave nor forsake you, and this is the TRUTH. He has PROMISED to save us from the LUST and ROTTENESS of this world and to allow us to be more like Him. The question isn’t do you look like Jesus, the question is do you believe the TRUTH? You see the scripture is very clear, He has given us everything we need to live the life, and He holds up His promises, so if there is a problem it is not with Him but with us.
Faith honors God and God honors faith! A story from the life of missionaries Robert and Mary Moffat illustrates this truth. For 10 years this couple labored faithfully in Bechuanaland (now called Botswana) without one ray of encouragement to brighten their way. They could not report a single convert. Finally the directors of their mission board began to question the wisdom of continuing the work. The thought of leaving their post, however, brought great grief to this devoted couple, for they felt sure that God was in their labors, and that they would see people turn to Christ in due season. They stayed; and for a year or two longer, darkness reigned. Then one day a friend in England sent word to the Moffats that she wanted to mail them a gift and asked what they would like. Trusting that in time the Lord would bless their work, Mrs. Moffat replied, "Send us a communion set; I am sure it will soon be needed." God honored that dear woman’s faith. The Holy Spirit moved upon the hearts of the villagers, and soon a little group of six converts was united to form the first Christian church in that land. The communion set from England was delayed in the mail; but on the very day before the first commemoration of the Lord’s super in Bechuanaland, the set arrived.
I hope you can see this morning that we have EVERYTHING we need to live a Godly life, if you TRULY KNOW God, through His Word you CAN live a Godly life. He has shared with us His GLORY & GOODNESS and we must share this with others, and SUCCESS in CHRIST comes with great & precious promises that can help us escape the evil and corruption of the world. HOWEVER, in the weeks to follow we will look at the rest of this passage, verse 5 starts with FOR THIS VERY REASON, and Peter tells us to add to our FAITH these things which we will look at one each week:
If you are here this morning and you have not yet made a decision for Jesus and accepted Him in the waters of baptism, today is your chance. As the musicians come forward we offer an invitation . . .