“It’s All About God…Not About Me”
Making the Most of Transition
Romans 8:1-5 (quotes taken from The New King James Version translation unless noted)
Wakelee Church ~ May 22, 2005
Theme: In the midst of transition, it is better to keep our priorities on God’s will rather than our own.
Introduction – “It’s not about you…”
For the last two months, we’ve been talking about transition. Back in March when we started, we didn’t know if I would be moving or not, now we know that we are. Back in March when we started, we didn’t know who my successor might be, now we know that Pastor Nelson Hall will lead Wakelee starting July 1. Back in March when we started, many were still in denial, struggling with this process, now we know and have moved toward final acceptance.
I am one who believes that change is almost always good. It gives each person a fresh start, a chance to make amends, an opportunity to refocus a vision…a chance for recommitment.
As we look at the last two sermons of this series, we move into the last two stages of making the most of this transition. Next week we’ll talk about acceptance. Today…our focus is on setting priorities.
Priorities…some people have them…some people don’t. Some people claim to have them but don’t use them. Others don’t claim to have them but how they go about living their lives speaks volumes.
Rick Warren in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, started the book with these words, “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
It’s a matter of priority. I suppose that most people if asked would list their families, their career, their security, their child’s education and so on in their top five. But when Paul wrote this letter to the congregation in Rome, a predominately Gentile crowd, he wanted them to know that God and his will for their lives should be ranked #1.
If we claim Christianity, then we walk according to the Spirit.
If we claim Christianity, then we accept God’s ability to do things we cannot do.
If we claim Christianity, then our #1 priority is to “set our minds” on things Spiritual.
Paul wrote that if we claim to be Christian, we cannot continue to live our lives as anything but. We can either walk through life focused on ourselves, our wants and supposed needs, or can we walk according to the Holy Spirit with God’s will in your sights.
How do we do it? Let’s take a look at God’s Word…
I – Walking according the Spirit – vs. 1-2
You heard Mary Ann read in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
We really like this verse, don’t we! Time and time again I’ve heard people say “there is therefore now no condemnation…” but that is not the full message of that verse is it. There’s a priority statement which follows…the whole no condemnation thing is for those for walk according the ____________ (Spirit).
Which way we walk, determines our priorities.
Anytime we put our will before God’s, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we intentionally turn a deaf ear to God’s instruction, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we flood our minds with poor television and movie choices, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we seek to divide instead of unite, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we think we’re better than someone else, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we envy others, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we even think about sexual unpureness, we walk in the flesh.
Anytime we hate…anytime we inappropriately use anger…anytime we become selfish…
When we spend more time with what our stuff, compared to time spent in God’s Word,in prayer, in worship and in praise…we walk in the flesh.
Now, we need to be thankful that we have a loving and merciful God…Amen? Things could get ugly if we didn’t!
But the message is this…there are only two priorities…
either we walk in the Spirit or we don’t.
If our focus in on anything but God, condemnation, sin, death, is the result.
But if the focus is on God, then we walk, not with fear of condemnation, but free from sin and death! Which way we walk is the first determination of priority.
II – What we couldn’t do, God did – vs. 3-4
But what about grace…what about love…what above mercy? Thankfully, after God dealt with God’s people from Adam and Eve, through the times of Moses, and through the kings and the prophets, he realized that we were all a bunch of screw-ups that needed some help!
Paul wrote, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son…” – Romans 8:3
While we were yet sinners, God still loved us enough to send a portion of himself.
And even when we become believers, God still loves us enough to give us His Spirit to lead, guide, and direct if we only listen.
If you want to feel God’s grace….
If you want to experience God’s mercy…
If you want to appreciate God’s love…
…then we need to set our priorities in line with the priorities of God.
We cannot do it by ourselves. Throughout human history, we have tried and failed.
We’ve eaten forbidden fruit, molded golden calves at the foot of mountains.
We’ve found ourselves in a foreign land conquered and captured.
We’ve heard the words of Jesus and still deny him before the rooster crows.
And while Jesus, John, and Mary stood at the foot of the cross, we huddled on the very outskirts afraid and bewildered.
After Jesus died, we couldn’t get up the nerve to take care of the body, so we sent the women down to take care of the body.
And when that body wasn’t there…we blamed thieves and soldiers…we huddled in a locked upper room…awaiting our Lord’s same fate.
But what we couldn’t handle, God could. When Jesus entered that room and told us, “Peace, be still!” it was then we knew what our priority must be. Even Thomas doubted no more.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of waiting in an upper room.
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to understand that this whole thing I am
experiencing is just a drop in the bucket compared to the joy that God has in store.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for God to accomplish what I’ve been unable (or maybe somewhat unwilling???) to accomplish! Amen?
It’s not our way that matters…we make decisions based on very little information compared to God’s vast knowledge. It’s that letting go and letting God theme revisited…
Once we’ve given up our way, God is waiting for us to see it his way.
III – “Setting our minds” is the key to priority! – vs. 5
Which leads us back to the inevitable question…how? How do we live according to the Spirit as Paul wrote? Well, the answer is found in another one of Paul’s letters…this time to the Galatians…
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control. Against such there is no law…If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:16, 22-23, 25
Is your mind set upon these things? If so, then God is pretty close to your top priority.
If you can’t find yourself in that list, or if you’ve lost the list somewhere along the way…
Then I invite you to turn your life over…making the decision to walk in the Spirit, allowing God to do what we could not, setting your mind on these things so that your direction may be God-centered, instead of you-centered.
Where we “set our minds” dictates our direction. Living according to the Spirit means setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.
Conclusion – …It’s All About God.”
It’s not about us…but it is all about God. Let me close with this story…
[Illustration – Twinkies and Root Beer - unknown source]
A little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of Root Beer and he started his journey.
When he had gone about three blocks, he met an elderly man. The man was sitting in the park just feeding some pigeons.
The boy sat down next to him and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the man looked hungry, so he offered him a Twinkie.
The man gratefully accepted it and smiled at boy. His smile was so pleasant that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered him a root beer.
Again, the man smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.
As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave, but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the man, and gave him a hug. The man gave him his biggest smile ever.
When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?
"He replied, "I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? God’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!"
Meanwhile, the elderly man, also radiant with joy, returned to his home. His son was stunned by the look of peace on his face and he asked," Dad, what did you do today that made you so happy?"
He replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God." However, before his son responded, he added," You know, he’s much younger than I expected."
As we near the end of this transition, as things start coming into place, isn’t it a good time to turn away from our wants and desires and instead trust in the Lord to renew our strength even if its just with Twinkies and root beer?
The prophet Isaiah goes as far as to say…
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youth will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
In the midst of transition, it is better to keep our priorities on God’s will rather than our own.
Lord, we come before you amazed at your knowledge, overwhelmed by your accuracy,
dazzled by inability to fail. But, we also come before you tired, broken,
wandering, feeling worthless, having no direction.
Lord, your will has been clear to us. Setting our priorities upon you is not a new concept.
We find it throughout your Scriptures, but yet we still stumble. Like Peter
walking on the water toward you, we tend to focus more on the storm than on you.
Forgive us. For all the times our priorities were out-of-whack, for all the times we knew
better but did so anyway, for all the times we’ve missed being the people you would have us to be because of our own inability to let go and follow you, we are sorry.
Help us, we pray…help us to set our priorities in such a way that we will know beyond
all doubt that it’s not about us…but it is all about you.
In the name of Christ we pray…Amen.
Church Council’s Response: (Claire Knapp)
As we continue in this time of transition, the church council realizes it is necessary to keep our priorities on our relationship with Jesus Christ. In keeping our focus off ourselves and on God, the church council invites the congregation to join them in reading God’s Word, attending and inviting others to worship, sharing our faith with others, and in prayer in order to experience where God is leading us. (Read Proverbs 3:3-6)Thank you.
Closing Hymn - #98 – To God Be The Glory
As we leave this place…
May the Lord grant us his power and discernment in the midst of uncertainty,
May the Lord help us to be honest with ourselves, admitting we need His mercy and grace
May the Lord help us to forgive and be forgiven,
And to have a practice of humility and a sense of his priority…
So that we may say as we accept this transition that is before us, may God’s will be done!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…Amen
Other Scriptures to consider:
Luke 6:45, 49 ~ Mark 11:24 ~ Hosea 6:3 ~ Matthew 6:6; 7:7; 21:22 ~ Psalm 1:1-3; 25:4-5; 119:105-106 ~ Philippians 4:6 ~ Isaiah 30:21