Although I don’t always make New Year’s resolutions I do love moments in our lives when pause and evaluate who we are and who we would like to become.
It is very easy in the busyness to keep on trekking along without ever stopping to examine where it is that we are headed. There are times when I look back and say where did that day go, or that week, that month, that year.
Or how did the babies get so old. Maybe you have said or thought this one I had plans to- dot, dot, dot.
It can be a difficult practice to pause long enough to make goals & a game plan. But in those times when I have the event, or the goal in which I wanted to accomplish comes about much more easier simply by having a clear measurable plan and a few tasks that will take me from where I am to where I want to be.
We see this practice being applied to business, menu planning, and church planning- yet we often are laxy dazy in our personal lives, specifically in our relationship with Christ.
As we enter in the year 2010 a natural break is created that gives us the wonderful opportunity to examine our lives, who we currently are, where we have come from and how we have changed over the past year, and how God wishes to shape us in the coming year.
The first thing we have to do before setting a goal is to determine what it is we wish to accomplish. For our purposes today we will call this the Goal in which we set all other goals by- this is the goal of becoming like Christ Jesus Himself.
The very essence of being a Christian hangs on being Christ like- imitating Him in our thinking, in our actions, in those things in which we love, and in the things in which repel us.
So how then do we get from our worldly state a sinners to people resemble a perfect Holy God?
Good question. Not enough will power in the world can bring us from point a in our lives to point b. We can not try hard enough, we can not have enough knowledge or education about the hopelessness of the situation we are in, we cannot feel sorry enough.
It comes through grace & repentance. The grace of God- He is the one of must give it, for it is His to give and then through our own repentance. Repentance by definition is the turning away from moral short comings or misdeeds, otherwise known as sins. That which is in opposition of Christ Jesus and His Character.
In the Christian life there is something in which we should caution ourselves against. It is the turning away of the past without the action of turning toward something. Often we feel regret for the past and know that we do not want to stay in it but we do not lay in front of us the goal of becoming anything different, the goal of becoming like our Savior.
That is why the second goal is of equal importance to the first. It is the goal of imitating.
Hebrews 6:12 implores us with these words, “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
There is also the warning not to imitate that which is evil and in contrast to God.
3 John 1:11
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.
But it is this last call to imitate I wish to look at more closely. It is a appeal from the apostle Paul to those in his sphere of influence calling them to imitate his behavior because he has dedicated his life to imitating the life of Christ.
1 Corinthians 4:15-17 (New International Version)
15Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
If Paul is worth being imitated then we have to wonder, what kind of person was he. What do we know of him?
One way we can know him better is by examining what he says about himself.
In Philippians 3:12-14 he describes himself with these words –
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1. Well first off we see that Paul had an imperfect past. He was not always a man worth imitating. He was a religious man yes, but prided himself in how well he could practice the law. He despised anyone who could not pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. He worked hard to follow the law and saw salvation through the law and could not understand or did not want to understand the way of Christ that offers poor sinners a way out and up through the great love of someone else’s effort- Christ’s love and effort and blood.
By believing this way & putting his belief into action when he supported the killing of those who were followers of Christ Paul was by nature in opposition of Christ.
2. Yet we see in Paul’s life a personal story of redemption. We can take great hope in his story. Because we know he didn’t stay in that life. He didn’t stay that person forever. He became a new creation. He had a encounter with Christ that left him different for the rest of his life.
He went from opposing Christ to serving Him with the same fervor he once opposed him with. He didn’t change speeds he simply changed directions.
I am reminded that none of us are outside of God’s grace. Known of us are so far removed that we cannot be shaped, molded and transformed by the grace of God in our life. We do not have to be a slave to our past. Through Christ the past can be behind us.
3. Thirdly we see in Paul that he is a man of determination and persistence. He is a man with a mission. And what is his mission- to resemble the one who has given his life a new purpose, a new passion, the one who has forgiven his past transgressions, and has set him right before God. The life of Christ is before Him always as the great goal in which he wills to bring honor to by conducting himself likewise, in a like manner. And by showing others that they to can know Christ in a similar fashion-- to know peace, to know forgiveness, to be free of guilt, to be filled with purpose, and passion, and to find a great friend.
4. Lastly we see that Paul is a man of humiliation. He realizes he is a man who has not yet arrived. He realizes he has not yet attained that goal. He still has things in his life that need to be submitted to Christ in order to be the person God wills for him to be and in order to fulfill the purposes in which Christ has set before him.
It is in this knowledge that Paul continues to set goals for himself, he continues in this knowledge press on toward the goal.
So then the question is posed to us this morning what in our life stands in the way of us becoming the person in which Christ wills for us to be? What is it in our life that stands in the way of us fulfilling the purposes in which Christ has set before us?
Do we need to turn the page in our lives on a luke warm relationship with Christ, on unforgiveness, on THAT sin, on mediocrity, on how we spend our time, or the resources God has given us?
The question before us this morning is, will we like Paul- let the past be the past, and use the present to allow God to continue to shape our Character? To walk through the rooms and the halls of our hearts- dusting, cleaning, reorganizing, reshaping, and redecorating.
If you are ready this morning to say like Paul and like the founder of the Salvation Army William Booth- God will have all there is of Joanna Rose- God will have all there is of Christian Smith, God will have all there is of Gladys Beach, God will have all there is of fill your name in there.
Then I invite you as we go into our closing song to join me at the alter. You will find paper & envelopes at the alter. On that paper I invite you to write a sin, a habit, whatever it is that is standing in the way of you resembling our Savior. The second option or perhaps you would like to do both, is to write a discipline you would like to add to your life that will developing Christ character in your life.
This next year let us make it our goal to become more like the Savior that we serve.