During the four years that I was in Bible College I had several opportunities to have Dr. Bill Burbury as my Professor, and in some of his classes Dr. Burbury offered what he called “Mark by Contract.” When you went to your first class Dr. Burbury would give you a list of requirements for the course. If you wanted to pass the course then you did certain things and you would be guaranteed to make a certain mark. And if all you wanted to do was to pass the course then you could plan your semester from there and at the end of the semester you would have a “D”. You would have passed the course, just. Of course if you were planning on graduating with a degree then that was pretty much worthless because in order to get your diploma you were required to have at least a “C” average.
So if you wanted to do more then simply pass the class then you started adding more requirement. If you wanted a C then you did all that was required of you to get a D and you added some more work and if you did all those things then you got a C. If you were even more industrious then you could add to the C requirements and get a B and add to the B requirements and get an A.
You understand the concept of “Mark by Contract” now? And so during the first week of each term each student was able to choose the mark which they wanted to earn. Most of those students choice an A or a B, however by term end many had only done the work required for a D or a C. Interestingly enough most students marks didn’t change, there wasn’t a dramatic change in mark percentages. The A students continued to be A students, the B students B students. Etc, etc. Nothing really dramatic happened. In the vast majority of cases nobody took the opportunity to move up to the next level. I will confess that I remanded a B student. My mark really didn’t change, I did enough work to get the mark I had always gotten and that was it.
Dr. Burbury once confronted me as my faculty advisor and asked me why I was content with a B or a 3.0 average when I was capable of A of 4.0 work. You know I thought about if for a minute or so and then I answered, (at this point Deborah please stop paying attention) and I said, “You know Dr. Burbury, As and 4s are sharp and harsh while Bs and 3s are soft and rounded.” Bill just shook his head. You see often what we achieve in life is determined not nearly as much by our smarts as it is by as dedication and devotion.
Whatever the advantages or disadvantages of the Contract method of marking were the main thing is you always knew what was expected of you. When you started the class you could ask “What do I have to do to pass this course or ace this course” and you would receive an answer.
We are all born with a desire to be at one with our Creator, our God and we try throughout our lives to come to the place that we are supposed to be at. And while we may never actually verbalize the question in our hearts we are all asking the same question as the lawyer asked Jesus in Luke 10:25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” How do I get to heaven?
The question is found in the book of Luke, which is the 3rd book in the New Testament. The Author of course is Luke, some of these are just too easy. Luke was probably a gentile Doctor who also wrote the book of Acts.
The book was written somewhere between AD 59 -63 and was actually written to a man named Theophilus, who was likely either a new believer or someone seeking to know more about Christ. Interesting name Theophilus, it was my great grandfather’s name but more then that in the Greek it meant Lover of God. And the reason for the book, to explain to readers that God’s love was meant for the entire world.
And so just as students would come to Dr. Burbury and say “what do I have to do to pass this course?” this lawyer comes to Jesus and says “what do I have to do to have eternal life?” Christianity is very much a contract class, where the requirements are spelled out for us.
Have you ever worked for someone who had unverbalized expectations of what they expected of you? They knew what they expected but they had never actually conveyed it to you, until they asked why you hadn’t done what they thought you should have done but had never actually mentioned that they wanted you to do it. Maybe it wasn’t a employer, maybe it was a spouse or a child or a friend. That happens at times, people assume that we should know certain things.
And yet God lays out what is expected of each of us in this book. On judgement day Jesus won’t be saying “Oh, I thought you knew that?”
The first thing that we need to discuss are the entrance requirement. Different courses at College had different entrance requirement. For example I needed to have Intro to Psychology before I could take Pastoral Counselling, and Pastoral Counselling before I could take Family and Marital Counselling.
You couldn’t enter into a contract in a course of study until you were first in the course. It wouldn’t matter if you did all the work perfectly and on time if you weren’t actually registered in the class, it would be a waste of time. In the same way it’ really silly to live an A+ Christian life if you aren’t actually a Christian. So how do you get into Christianity? Well it’s sort of like preaching to the choir, but in case there’s someone who’s not sure the Apostle Peter does a great job of summing it up in Acts 3:19 Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins. It’s that simple, turn away from your sins, that’s called repentance, ask for forgiveness and turn to God. That’s the entrance requirements, you are now a Christian. Simple enough?
Well got this far and I was stumped, I mean I should now talk about how we can be an a b c d or f Christian. And we all know the A Christians and we could name the B Christians. Most of us know the D Christians, they are the people who have pretty well dropped out of the race but not quite. They are still registered in the course but they are skipping class. Kind of what happens in Spring in high school. And if we are feeling really carnal we can even name the F Christians, they’ve just given up all together.
And so we all know the As, Bs, Ds, and Fs. They are easy to spot and we lift them up or run them down depending on their grade and the degree of our carnality. Neither of which we should be doing by the way. Now I had no problem with those people, they had all made their choices. They were either very dedicated to the Lord, dedicated or just didn’t care.
They had decided exactly what type of Christian they were going to be and that’s what they were doing, and they were willing to live with their choice. I said before that I was a B student through high school and College, with a little more work and a little more effort I could have been an A student but I would have had to give up some things that I wasn’t willing to give up. Not bad things just things.
I’ve had two assistant Pastors through the years who graduated from College with 4.0 averages and were both admitted to honour societies. Angela has always claimed that I lived my academic life vicariously through Peter and John.
Now most of the D and F students (you ever wonder what happened to E? Inquiring minds want to know, what type of education system goes A, B, C, D, F? Like 1, 2, 3, 4, 6.) That was what was technically known in public speaking as an aside. So, where was I, oh yeah, most of the D and F students that I knew in High School and College were there by their own choice. And I know that is a generalization, and there are people out there with genuine learning disabilities but not this bunch. Their marks bothered their teachers, their parents, the educational system, as a matter of fact it bothered everybody except the person it should have bothered. The student.
I’ve said all of that to say this, The A, B, D and F Christians are content to be where they are, and besides it wasn’t them I have problems with. It was the C Christian, you know the average Christian. Out of necessity there will be more average Christians after all in school the C’s should outnumber the A’s B’s D’s and F’s. Isn’t that what average means?
We all want to be normal but none of us wants to be average, interesting. But in some areas of life we have to be average, think about it if we were all above average then that would be average. And most times being average doesn’t hurt. Collins dictionary defines average as “the mean value or quantity of a number of values or quantities.” However I prefer John Maxwell’s definition he said that “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the best.”
Maxwell once preached a message on being a success and after the message a lady came up and demanded to know what was being wrong with being average. Maxwell responded with this statement. “If you’re not a Christian, nothing is wrong with being average. If you are a Christian then you must not be content until you develop the potential which God has given you to it’s fullest extent. In so doing you will bring glory to God and be lifted above average.”
You won’t be better looking or more intelligent because you have become a Christian, I mean look around, look at me. But when you become a Christian your attitude toward life should change, and your consecration in service, your love for others and your love and service to God should all become above average.
The question remains then, what does an average Christian do? Well to be truthful, not much. They don’t pray much, they don’t give much, they don’t study God’s word much, they don’t love much and they really aren’t all that dedicated.
The average Christian has the entrance requirements down pat, but they haven’t gone much beyond that, they are like the people Paul was writing to in Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.
Most of us have the basics down pat, but have we gone on to become mature in our understanding? It’s scary but if I wasn’t a pastor I’d probably be very average in my faith, and that’s wrong. Because God doesn’t expect more from pastors then he does from everyone else. God is not a God of mediocrity. God demands the very best of us. Was the sacrifice an average lamb? Was the temple an average building? Is Heaven just an average place? No, so how do we rise above being average?
1) To be More then Average We Will Need More Determination. When those around you quit, then it’s time for you to grit your teeth and try harder. Success in any endeavour but particularly in the spiritual realm is achieved and maintained by those who keep trying. Today you may not be what you want to be, hope to be, dream of being but the one key to achieving your dream is a determination to not quit. When we finally move into our building this year the one thing that will have helped make the dream a reality will be your determination. There have been all kinds of opportunities through the past ten years for you to have thrown up your hands and walked away but you are still here.
Your mother ever give you poems when you were growing up? My mom was forever giving me poems she had found that she thought might help me at some point. And those were the days before the internet and email. One she gave me is probably familiar to some of you: Two frogs fell into a can of cream. or so I’ve heard it told;
The sides of the can were shiny and steep, The cream was deep and cold.
“O, what’s the use?” croaked No. 1. “Tis fate; no help’s around.
Goodbye, my friends! Goodbye sad world!” And weeping still, he drowned.
But Number 2, of sterner stuff, Dog paddled in surprise,
The while he wiped his creamy face, And dried his creamy eyes.
“I’ll swim awhile at least,” he said - Or so I’ve heard he said;
“It really wouldn’t help the world, If one more frog were dead.”
An hour or two he kicked and swam. Not once he stopped to mutter.
But kicked and kicked and swam and kicked. Then hopped out via butter.
It was Emerson who said “A Man is a hero not because he is braver then anyone else, but because he is brave ten minutes longer.” And it is that type of dedication that makes us more then average.
You see being a Christian isn’t a destination it is a journey. We begin our Christian walk and sometimes we want immediate results. We say we are going to study the bible and we turn to Matthew 1:1 and read A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David, the son of Abraham; Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob who begat Judah and his brothers. And we throw up our hands and say I don’t understand this and walk away.
When we pray we walk away disappointed if God doesn’t immediately drop our wishes in our laps. You don’t walk out of marriage at your first fight, you don’t quit school the first time you can’t solve a problem, you don’t leave university simply because you don’t like studying. Well you don’t do those things if you want to succeed. And if you are going to succeed in your Christian life it will require determination.
I love what the old lady said, “I ain’t what I oughta be, and I aint’ what I’m gonna be, but thank God I ain’t what I was.
2) To be More then Average We Will Need More Faith. The average Christian has just enough faith to die with but not enough to live with. Oh that was good, I think I’ll say it again, “The average Christian has just enough faith to die with, but not enough to live with.” What I mean is that we believe that God can have an effect on our eternal life but we’re not really sure that he can do anything about the life we are living today.
But listen up, if your prayer life is going to be above average then your faith is going to have to be above average. If you are going to get more out of the bible study your faith will have to be above average. If you are going to give more then the average Christian then you will need above average faith. Not just a little bit, but more then most.
And bottom line is that if you want to please God, then you are going to have to have a little more faith, because Hebrews 11:6 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
It doesn’t say it’s tough to please God without faith or that it’s difficult to please God without faith, it says it’s impossible to please God without faith.
Faith is being able to see what isn’t there yet. When you drive by our property, you have driven by our property haven’t you? When you drive by the property do you see 5 acres of scrub and brush or do you see a facility where lives will be touched and eternities will be shaped? Do you not only believe that God can perform miracles for this church do you believe that God will perform miracles for this church.
You are a Christian, by your decision to ask Christ for forgiveness and accepting Him as your saviour you have already demonstrated that you have enough faith to die a Christian, the question is do you have enough faith to live a Christian?
3) To be More then Average We Will Need More Love. Most of us can love. We love our mom, our dad, our brothers and sisters, we love our spouse and that special friend. But what about the shrew that’s always saying nasty things about you? What about the Pastor when he’s a little bit critical or says something you don’t agree with. What about the guy that cuts you off in traffic or the drunk on the corner. How about Paul Martin or George Bush?
Do you love enough to make a difference in some bodies life? More importantly do you love enough to make a difference in your life? Do you love enough to sacrifice and give things up for the sake of others? That’s part of what the capital campaign was about, was giving up things for the here and now in order to make a difference in the there and then. Jim Elliot was a missionary who was martyred for his faith almost fifty years ago, shortly before he died he wrote in his journal “A man is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
When the 19th century turned into the 20th century a sailing ship was discovered drifting in the Artic Ocean amongst the icebergs, her crew had been dead for 13 years. She was described by one writer as “A drifting sepulchre manned by a frozen crew.” Without love that is all the church will become, A drifting sepulchre manned by a frozen crew.
If you were to compare hot and cold would the average be lukewarm? So if your spiritual state is neither hot nor cold, just average it would be lukewarm? I sure hope it’s not because listen to what Jesus said in Revelation 3:16 But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!
Ouch, let me close with two epitaphs for you to think about, the first was for a guide in the Swiss Alps who died in a fall, it simply read “He died climbing.” And the second was for an eighty five year old scientist that simply read “He died Learning” What will they put on your stone?
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