Good afternoon, it is so good to be back with you. I am thankful for all that God is doing in my life and in the life of our church.
And so it is great to be with you today.
Today I want to share a word with you that I believe God has been stirring in my heart for a while but I think that in the recent weeks, He has been showing me how critical it is. And I think that from some of the conversations I have had with some of you he is showing you this too.
I absolutely love the Olympics, I don't know about you but I love it. I love the competition, it is funny because during the Olympics we all become experts on sports we have never even thought about before. You know what I am talking about? I remember after the last olympics saying things like, oh yeah the Norwegian rowers gave it a good effort but their cadence was just a little off. Seems like their first oar, needed to get his head in the game.
Anyway one of the truly amazing athletes during the last olympics was a sprinter named Carmelita Jeter, do you guys remember who she was. David can we see the photos, Anyone remember this moment, it was one of the best moments of the Summer Olympics. A couple of weeks ago we discussed Gerard Butler's abs so I thought it would only be fair to talk about Carmelita's abs today, She could have been a Spartan!
One of the things that made a big impression on me is right after Carmelita won this race and she was giving an interview and she began to talk about her coach. She said that he was the biggest jerk she had ever known. That he was never satisfied and that he called her bad names and he was ruthless in pushing her to achieve at an even greater level. Then she said that she could never have become the fastest woman alive if it had not been for him. She went on to say that she was a very good runner, but he had turned her into a great runner. At the end of the interview she said that she loved her coach because of how hard he pushed her.
I had a very similar experience in basic training, I had this little drill sergeant that was so mean. I am telling you he was likely the meanest person I had ever met. He was just a nasty ugly little man, with all kinds of scars on his face, He looked like the devil! and he could cuss. Man I am telling you I aspired to be able to cuss as good as this guy could cuss. He could add four different cuss words into a word that only had two syllables. I remember thinking at one point during that training that he was possibly the most evil human being on the planet.
He pushed us and pushed us, to relearn everything we thought we knew how to do. We had to relearn how to walk and how to run, how to exercise and how to fold our clothes. We relearned how to make our beds and how to clean a room. One of the interesting things is learning how to think about success. Each of us in the squad had an ability to do one thing or another really well. I remember the feeling of mastering a skill and thinking that my drill sergeant would give me praise or at least not cuss me out. But I found out of one of us failed then we all failed. On graduation day, as we prepared move on to wherever the Air Force was sending us next I remember thinking that I truly loved this man. That he had pushed me to become a better man, to become more focused that I thought I could be, to be more honorable, to work harder and to evaluate success in a whole new way. I knew that day that my character and my ability to achieve would not be as great if I had not known him.
The thing is that over time I have learned to love the easy path. I have realized that the easy path is filled with pleasure and with comfort. Why do men cheat on their wives, because it is easier to have sex with someone you do not care about that it is to work through the often difficult realities of committed relationships. Isn't that a deep truth, why do we love people when we first become friends and then when the difficult life issues come up decide that it is too much work to stay friends. Oh to be sure we are not that honest with ourselves, we blame in on them don't we. We say things like, they are too needy or not needy enough, they have not been the same lately, they are too demanding or expect too much. Their problems are too big, I feel like my relationship with them is taking too much, etc, etc!
I have begun to realize that the further and further I have lived from that experience of basic training the easier it was to choose the path of least resistance.
I made choices that resulted in quick gain, even when I could see that the choice would ultimately cost me gravely. I would choose what seemed easier for today and say let tomorrow worry about itself.
I remember my first days as a Christian, I remember hearing God call me to do hard things. To forgive others of debts they owed me, and to walk away from money and power and influence that I had gained through sin. I remember the hard days that followed, being afraid that I might lose my life because of those choices but believing that if that was the path God had me on then I would either be safe by the power of his hand or be present with Him in Heaven.
I remember going to the mission field-still in so many ways a baby Christian, already a pastor but new to ministry. I remember believing that God would make a way for us, he would support us even when I didn't know very many christians aside from those in our sending church. I remember God providing in miraculous ways, I remember God doing physical miracles, healing people and fixing machines and pushing us to relearn all we thought we knew about life.
And the truth is the further and further I get from those extraordinary experiences the easier it gets to choose the path of least resistance. And not that the choices I am making are not so life and death it is easy to choose pleasure and comfort. I want to get real for a minute because I believe that no one is saying this, I mean I think that all of us are different and some of you work out and you are so disciplined with what you eat. And some of you work hard and are so disciplined with your finances, and some of you are so disciplined with your life you make wise choices even when the cost is high. But what happens when our relationship with Jesus costs too much? Does it become more palatable to recreate god, into something that is easy?
We are the children of churches that have told us that God's sole desire is that we have a happy life. The only problem with that theology is that it is not Biblical- every command that Jesus gives us is hard, really hard. He commands us to love our enemies, and to turn the other cheek and to give up our families for his sake, and to lay down our lives. How can I rectify those commands with the comfort giving, pleasure loving god I worship?
Oh of course we aren't that honest with ourselves are we? Instead we say things like, I would love to share the gospel but I have a helps gifting or a hospitality gifting. God would have made me an evangelist if he would have wanted me to talk to people. We say things like God would not want me to go to bars or places where homeless people are or prostitution goes on. I need to keep my spirit clean for him.
We say those things and we justify why we do not follow him.
I want to be very clear so there are no misunderstandings, this sermon is not about salvation it is about discipleship. It is about being a follower of Christ.
Remember in the garden as Jesus was praying, he recognized the difficult road before him. This is the humanity of Jesus, he knows that our Father, has called him to do some very very hard things. If he would not have recognized the difficulty and dreaded the coming suffering he would not have been human, and we would not have such an amazing God!
He sees that his path is impossible, yet he submits to the will of the Father and the word says God gave him Strength. Strength to do what needed to be done, Do not mistake having strength with it being easy.
Today I am planting a church and because I have looked for the easy road, I have grown expectations of an easy journey. And when it is hard I wonder where God is? How about you this afternoon, in what areas of your life are you choosing the easy road. How is your love of comfort and pleasure effecting your relationship with your friends and family, how is it affecting your relationship with God??
Are you willing to do whatever the hard thing is that God is calling you to today or will you let the easy path lure you into a false christianity?
This afternoon I want to close with a scripture that has become one of my favorites, if you have your Bibles please open to Jeremiah chapter 12. In this chapter we find Jeremiah crying out to God saying that his people are slaves while the wicked prosper. He is crying out to God and he has so much reason.
But I want to show you God's response, lets look at the 5th verse together:
God says to press in to the difficulty, in fact he says hold on a minute Jeremiah you forgot a few things in your rant. You forgot that your family has betrayed you.
But he is saying to you that good is not good enough, it is not enough just to say we are christians we are not called to run with footmen, we are called to run with horses! We are called to choose the hard narrow path and to be sharpened by iron. We are called to look like Jesus.
Will you pray with me?