Purpose Series #3
(Six Sessions on God’s Purpose for Your Life)
The Daily Routine of Abiding
SCRIPTURE READING: Ephesians 4:22-24
All of us have some kind of morning routine. Mine has advanced in complexity since my college days. Back then, I just got up, threw on clothes, ran to the OBC cafeteria, grabbed a doughnut and coffee, and ran upstairs to my 7:00 class. (…from bed to classroom in 10 minutes flat) Well, it’s a good thing you go to college when you’re young. Getting ready for the day takes a little more time now. It involves showering, spritzing, combing, brushing, medicating, shaving, clipping, dressing, accessorizing, eating, and --- if time permits --- strumming. And it takes a lot longer than 10 minutes.
All of us tend to have some kind of morning routine … and we seldom vary from it. When you think of your routine, ask yourself this question: What is your daily spiritual routine? Do you have regular habits of prayer and Bible Study that have become part of the pattern of your life?
This week our Pueblo groups are going to be looking at John chapter 15 where Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5:
When I started working on this sermon, I realized that we’ve focused on this passage several times in the past 3 years. We’ve talked about abiding in Christ. We have looked at the meaning of God’s pruning of the branches. We’ve examined what it means to be cut off from the vine. We’ve focused on how Christians can bear much fruit.
It seems to me that if we’ve studied these verses so often, God must want us to catch on to something! For one thing, ABIDING in Christ is what “discipleship” is all about --- that slow, gradual process by which we develop character and maturity.
And why would that matter? Because --- just as you were created to love God and to love others --- you were also created to become like Christ. And the truth is, it takes effort to grow in Christ. In fact, I discovered that the New Testament tells us to “Make every effort…” 8 times. Here are some examples:
· Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Luke 13:24
· Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romqns14:19
· Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3
· Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy… Hebrews 12:14
· Make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, etc…. II Peter 5-7
· Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. II Peter 3:14
It seems clear that if we are going to Grow in Christ, we need to make every effort. God changes us only if we INVITE Him to do so. ABIDING IN CHRIST means we give God a daily invitation to enter into our hearts and minds. So how can we make every effort to ABIDE in Christ?
Our TEXT this morning --- Ephesians 4:22-24 --- gives a good answer to that question. Think of it as a daily spiritual routine. The first thing these verses tell us to do is to:
1. Put off the old self
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… Ephesians 4:22
This is the part of your daily routine where you look in the mirror, so to speak. And you see that things are not looking all that great… Which reminds me of a joke I heard. This is one of the differences between men and women:
· A man looks in the mirror in the morning and sees that things aren’t looking so good – in fact, he’s a mess. So what does he do? He shrugs his shoulders and heads out the door.
· A woman looks in the mirror, and she also sees that things are not looking exactly perfect. So what does she do? She says, “Hey, I can FIX that!”
In James 1:23-24 we read this admonition: Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24
Every day we need to take a good look in the mirror and realize that the OLD SELF --- the part of us that is lazy and selfish and proud and stubborn --- that part of us that still loves to sin --- that OLD SELF is still with us. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t see that.
So how do you put off that OLD SELF?
· Confess your sins.
· Ask God to protect you from being corrupted by your own deceitful desires
· Then rip off that OLD SELF and throw it out.
Now that’s not as easy as it sounds. Most of us get kind of attached to the OLD SELF. We’re used to it. It’s been around a long time. It’s kind of like I was with my old 70’s style clothes. I knew those plaid leisure suits and the burnt-orange shirt needed to go. They were way out of style (and my wife claims they never actually never looked all that good in the first place.) But they were MINE, and they were comfortable. So it was a great day in my life (and especially at great day for Susan) when I finally threw them in the “good will” bag and got them out of the house.
Now here’s the difference: Those old Leisure Suits don’t keep reappearing in the closet every day. But the OLD SELF will keep showing up no matter how many times you throw it out. Every day you have to take an honest look in the Mirror of God’s Word. Then make that hard choice and put off your old self. After that you’re ready for the next step:
2. Get at attitude adjustment
… be made new in the attitude of your minds … Ephesians 4:23
Let’s admit it. Most of us let our thought life run on autopilot. We seldom even stop and EXAMINE our thoughts --- so we don’t have any idea what kind of attitude we’ve developed. We assume that whatever runs through our minds is our own business.
But ABIDING in Christ means that His Word will take over our minds as well as our hearts. In John 15:7 Jesus said, If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
Gipsy Smith (who worked with Salvation Army for many years) told about a man who came to him with a complaint. The man said he was getting nothing out of the Bible. Gipsy Smith asked, “Have you been reading it?” And the man answered, “Yes, I’ve gone through the Bible several times.” "Let it go through you once," replied Smith, "then you will tell a different story!"
It was President Ronald Reagan who said, “Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today--if only we would read and believe.”
So why is it that Christians get out of the habit of reading the Bible? I think it has to do with the ups and downs of normal life. I remember something I read in a book by Chuck Swindol. He said, “The only problem with daily life is that it’s so DAILY.” That’s so true! All of us go through dry spells when it feels like we’re just “going through the motions.”
Listen to this explanation by an evangelist named George Muller:
It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. The truth is that in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray. George Muller in A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Muller
Don’t let the “daily-ness” of life keep you from regular prayer and Bible reading. There may be times when it is not easy. We may be busy. We may be discouraged. We may not “feel” the spirit every single day. But ABIDING means that His Word ABIDES in us. That is the only way we can be made new in the attitude of our minds.
Then we’ll be ready to:
3. Put on the new self
… and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:24
Becoming like Christ is not a matter of imitation as much as it is a matter of inhabitation. There’s something supernatural at work here. It is hard to understand, but Jesus Christ actually lives within us. His Holy Spirit inhabits our bodies. The Bible says your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Think of it this way:
· You were not created to become “god.” But you were created to become like God.
· Because of this, God’s goal for you is not comfort, but character.
· Which basically means that life is not about you, and God is not your servant to meet your every need.
· Instead, you exist for God’s purposes
That is the NEW SELF we put on every day … the SELF that exists totally for the purpose of pleasing God. Every day we need to leave the house wearing GODLY GARMENTS. Leave the house with your eyes open to opportunities to practice your faith … to create peace … to give grace and encouragement … to show wisdom and discernment … to overcome temptations …
With the eyes of your NEW SELF, you can look at the world from a heavenly perspective.
We need to make every effort to Grow in Christ. But we are not called to grow in isolation. Jesus intends us to grow through our relationships with people in church. That’s why he allows us to rub up against folks in church. We are changed and improved by those close encounters of the “churchy” kind. In the church we can encourage each other to make every effort to truly ABIDE in Christ.
ABIDING is a proactive, purposeful thing we do. On a daily basis, we
· Put off the old self with it’s deceitful desires
· We read God’s Word so that we are made new in the attitudes of our minds.
· And we put on the new self, created to be like God.
It isn’t easy --- certainly not automatic --- in fact, it requires that we make every effort. But that is what discipleship is all about. We were made for this. Growing in Christ is God’s plan for us. He will not give up on us until the transformation is complete. God works within us so we can work it out in the grind of daily living.