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About this series
Becoming a Romans 12 Christian
Being a genuine disciple of Christ flows out of a relationship with Him. It's about experiencing God's grace, not earning His love through performance. A real relationship with Jesus Christ will produce a follower whose life looks progressively more like His life. Romans 12 provides a relational profile of an authentic disciple: someone who is surrendered to God, separate from the world's values, sober in self-assessment, serving in love and supernaturally responds to evil with good. Christians who live out this kind of lifestyle are what we call r12 Christians. God is willing to go deeper and grow you into a real disciple - are you ready?More from this series
If I asked you, over a cup of coffee, “Where did your spiritual journey really begin as an adult?” what would you tell me? Where were you? What were the circumstances?
For me, it was the night I graduated from high school. After being with some friends at a party, I realized I was a workaholic. I had academic success. My dream of a basketball scholarship was in hand. I was all-league in baseball. I had a really pretty girlfriend. And I sat alone, and empty, and just wondering, What in the world am I here for? My little formula of “success will make you happy” didn’t pan out.
I remember that night, sitting on my bed, looking out my bedroom window. It was a very starry night, I remember. And I started asking the real questions that adults ask. Why am I here? Is there a God? What’s my purpose in life? Is there more to life than just setting goals and achieving them?
And that night, although I had a lot of childhood prayers of, Get me out of this jam and please help so-and-so, and I prayed what I think was my first adult prayer. And I remember looking at the stars and I said, God, if You exist, reveal Yourself to me in a way I can understand. And then, I figure everybody wants something. I remember praying, God, what do You want from me? If You exist, what do You really want from me?
And that’s going to be the question we’re going to ask and answer today on our journey toward true spirituality. How do we give God what He wants the most? If you’ll pull out your teaching handout, we’re going to walk through this journey and this journey is going to take us to a point of a very, very important decision.
When you ask the big questions of life, they come back at you in a way where there are big decisions, decisions about future and priority and relationships. Way more important than jobs and money and details.
And so I want to introduce you to a book that I read. It was by a Harvard, actually Yale – excuse me; they use it at Harvard Business School – but by a Yale Law professor called “Risk, Reason, and the Decision-Making Process”. And it’s a series of true stories that are case studies.
And they read the case study, then they get in small groups and they talk about, “Okay, what were the risks involved in making this decision, what reasons did people make this decision, and what would you do?” And so they peel it out, give a case study, let the groups talk a little bit, and then give them more information.
So let me actually, I’ve got a couple of case studies here, because here’s the deal. The goal was to teach them to make skillful, wise decisions. And we’re going to be talking about a very, very important decision and there is just some great insight about making great decisions.
So case study number one. They’re brief, but they’re kind of fun. A thirty-two-year-old engineer named John loves to go to estate sales to look for antique furniture and other potentially valuable items. One weekend, he goes to an estate sale in the southern part of the United States. All the items in this particular house are being sold together for a single price. Visitors are welcome to make a bid, and John learns that the winning bid will be about ninety-five thousand dollars.
The house is old, in disrepair; probably built during the Civil War period. John, a self-confessed geek and history buff, recognizes a collection of rifles that seem to be from that timeframe. He then goes downstairs to a damp basement. Using a small pocket flashlight, he finds an old roller top desk, and going through the desk, he discovers a false drawer. And in the false drawer is a small leather pouch that contains twenty-two very rare, pure gold coins, minted by the Confederate army during the Civil War. They could be worth millions of dollars, he believes.
John has to make a decision. What should he do? He has ten thousand dollars in savings. If he can sell his car, his house, and everything he owns, he believes he can come up with the ninety-five thousand dollars and make the winning bid. What would you do? Students at Harvard Business School, at MIT, and other universities discussed this. So, face value, what would you do? Think about that.
Case study number two. Sheila, a twenty-something college art teacher at a community college was traveling in Europe over the summer. She had even started a small collection on her limited salary. And while in a small village in southern France, well off the beaten path, Sheila went to an auction where the locals had all donated family art to be sold to help finance the construction of a much-needed school.
One painting topped the list, and was said to be a rare, but highly valued copy of Picasso’s work. It was deemed as a non-original because the signature at the bottom was different from all of his other works. Sheila, however, wrote her Master’s thesis on Picasso and was aware that in the first year of his work, he did not sign his name but only put his initials there.
She looked and studied the painting carefully and came to the conclusion that she actually was in the presence of a priceless piece of art. It was believed there were only two or three of these paintings in existence anywhere in the world. If this were so, Sheila was standing before something worth a very great deal of money.
The twenty-five thousand asking price was a joke with regard to what it was worth, but it was a bigger joke with her income. What Sheila would have to do was sell her Volkswagen Jetta, sell her entire art collection, and withdraw her entire savings of six hundred dollars. What should Sheila do? What would you tell her?
Now, you’ll notice on your notes I did a little observations or questions to ponder, and when you get something like this, you ask, “Okay, what are the risks?” The risk is that if the coins are phony and John does that, he loses everything, and the risk for Sheila is, if it’s not a Picasso, she’s going to lose everything.
The potential rewards are – and by the way, later in the study, they have a second page that the teacher brings out – the coins are real and they’re worth about thirty to forty million dollars; the Picasso was real and was worth about one hundred million dollars. So the rewards were super, if in fact it was true. But the cost and the risk were very high if it’s not. So with that information, what would you do and why?
Now, I want to give you three principles that flow out of these case studies. Here’s where the meat is for you and me. In every big decision, and I mean big, important, life-altering decisions especially, the number one thing you need is – just write this word down – “truth.” Truth.
The issue here is the validity of the find. If the coins are legit, if they’re true, if it’s a Picasso, if it’s true, and for you, when you’re trying to figure out what you should do with your life and the relationships that you’re in, you need to first and foremost say, “What’s true?”
Second, write the word knowledge there under your observations. See, Sheila had knowledge that other people didn’t have. She had done some work, she’d done some study. She was prepared to take advantage of a situation because she knew things that other people didn’t know. John was the same way. He’s a computer geek. He’s a history buff. When he saw the rifles, he saw the house, all those things gave him insider’s knowledge about what he was really looking at.
And after truth and knowledge, the last thing, just write the word faith. These are the three keys to making great decisions. What’s true? Do you have the inside knowledge? And then, faith is literally the courage to pull the trigger.
It’s one thing for John to say, “Hey, I believe this. This is true. I’ve done some evaluation.” And then, can you hear John, going back and talking to his wife? “Hey honey, we’re going to empty our savings account, sell the house, sell the cars, everything that we have because I just found these gold coins and…”
Even if he’s absolutely convinced – because I’ve watched this happen a lot – there are things you’re convinced of, that you really believe are true. Your logic tells you it’s true. At times, even the Bible tells you it’s true. At times, the research and history even says it’s true. But when you look at the weight of the risk, there are a great deal of people that never have the faith or the courage to pull the trigger and act on what they absolutely believe is true. And so they don’t make the decisions or they make no decisions, which is really a decision in itself.
Turn the page, if you will, because these two remind me of a case study by Jesus that teaches us also about risk, reason, and the decision-making process. When Jesus is teaching this – it’s out of Matthew chapter 13, verses 44 and 45 – by this time, His popularity is growing and people, He is deemed to be the King of the universe, the Messiah. And He’s saying that, “I’m the King over a kingdom,” and all a kingdom is, is the rights and the power and the authority that someone has to rule.
And He was teaching a completely new way of life, completely different from the religious time, completely different. He was loving, and He was kind, and He was holy, and He was radical. And everywhere He went, there was either a riot or a revival. And there was something fascinating and powerful. He did things that no one else had ever done. He raised people from the dead and He spoke about God and He revealed the Father.
And people were beginning to follow Him. But as they began to follow Him, it forced them into very big decisions; big decisions about the way they used to think, big decisions about other relationships, big decisions about their time or their money or their future.
And so He gives them two similes or pictures – parables. He makes them up. He says, “The kingdom of heaven…” In other words, “Following Me and how life works with Me as the King of your life is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found, then he hid again, and from joy over it, he goes and sells all that he has and he buys that field.”
Now, that’s a very short sermon, but there’s a lot in there. And just in case, very common in Jewish teaching – parallelism – they’ll give you a truth and just to make sure you get it, maybe give you exactly the same truth with a different picture.
So look at verse 45. “Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls and upon finding one pearl of great value” – of exquisite value; of over the top, priceless value is the idea – “he went and sold all the pearls that he had and he bought it.”
So if you have a pen, pull it out. Let’s go up to verse 44. I want you to see something. Underline the two words treasure, hidden. And then, the two words man, found. And then, the two words hid, again. And then, the two words from, joy. And then, the two words sells, all. And then, the phrase, buys the field.
And if we were doing a little Bible study together, I would say there are four observations we could make that are very, very simple but unveil what Jesus is saying. A man, number one, finds a treasure. The man, after finding the treasure, sees how much worth it has. He hides it again. Number three, he has an emotional response.
He is absolutely exhilarated and joyful that he has come into all this money. And then, number four, in order to get that field, he sells everything he has so when he owns the field, he’ll get the treasure inside.
Now, here’s what you need to understand. Jesus isn’t talking about money and treasure. He’s making a very profound spiritual point and principle about decision-making. And what He’s saying is this. He’s saying there are certain things that we can see and certain things we can’t see. “And the kingdom of God and following Me is akin to…”
And this would be in their day; it would make sense because this actually could happen in their day. They didn’t have 401ks. And so you would take your treasure and you would hide it and dig it someplace on your land. And the goal is you would tell your relatives – your sons or daughters – where it is. But sometimes, people, they aren’t quite ready to hear it, and they die before they tell anyone. So it could be on a piece of land for two or three or four generations.
And so the people realize that this story is really plausible. And so He says, “Here’s a man who is in a field. Maybe he’s walking with a stick, and he hears something, and he opens it up, and there’s a little chest, and there’s a fortune in it. And he covers it back up and he is just exhilarated with what he’s just found. So he recklessly, with abandon, sells everything he has that’s not worth very much to get something that’s worth a whole lot.” Same picture with the pearl.
Here’s the thesis. Jesus is saying when you understand who He is, and how life really works, and what really, really matters now and forever, and you get the treasure of what it is to have relationship with Him, and the plan that He has for you on this earth, you would, with reckless abandon and joy, forsake all else to get that.
Put another way, His thesis is total commitment is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow. Do you realize that? Total commitment. He sold all that he had. Motive? Joy.
Above the word in our notes where it says total commitment, would you write the word surrender and put a box around it? Surrender. Total commitment. It was all or nothing in order to gain that land with the treasure inside.
Now, notice Webster defines total commitment for us, because sometimes that word means different things to different people. He says, “It’s the alignment of one’s motives, resources, priorities, and goals to fulfill a specific mission, accomplish a specific task, or follow a specific person.” In the words of Texas Hold ‘Em, it’s you’re “all in.”
Total commitment. Surrender. This is very counterintuitive. Jesus is this amazing teacher calling people to a life and He says that the values are upside down in the world that you live in. And the way to gain is to give, and the way to life is to die.
And He says, I have a plan, and in following Me there is a treasure that’s unspeakable. It’s unspeakable for the now. It’ll transform you. It’ll transform every relationship. It has the promise of eternity. It has the forgiveness of your sin. It has focus and purpose and answers all the big questions of life. And this treasure I want to give to you, but here’s the entrance to the decision – surrender. Surrender is the channel through which God’s best and biggest blessings flow.
Now, you’ll notice at the very bottom, I put a spiritual insight because when you talk like I have just been talking about total commitment and if you really begin to play it out in your mind and you start thinking about, The story about John and Sheila, that’s really nice. And you think of the one hundred million dollars that Sheila has and you think about the thirty or forty million dollars that John got out of the deal because they had inside knowledge and had the courage to pull the trigger; both did.
By the way, before I go on, is there no compassion in this room? I noticed, does anyone just have a twinge and feel sort of sorry for Sheila? She gave up her Volkswagen Jetta. Every piece of art that she had picked up over those years, don’t you think they were – on her teacher’s salary – an emotional…
And John, if he’s been to these estate sales, when he sold everything he has, don’t you think there are a couple antiques from other sales that really meant a lot to him? His wife loses her home? You’re a really hard-hearted group. So you actually are saying you think that thirty or forty million dollars is worth doing that? Of course you do.
Now, Jesus told these two parables to get into their world in such a way that they would get a new set of glasses, because when you talk to people, who want to follow God, about total commitment, it’s like, “Well, I know pastors are supposed to be totally committed and maybe missionaries,” and there’s always a ninety-eight-year-old lady who really prays thirty-seven hours a day and there are only 24 hours.
And we know she’s totally committed, but for most of us, we’re just like regular Christians and that sounds really scary and I really want to love God. I’m glad I’m going to heaven. I’m glad Jesus forgave my sins and, I would like to be a good person.
In fact, I think I’m a little bit better person than most people. But total commitment sounds scary, like lock, stock, barrel – God has the say on my time, my money, my future, my family…ah!
And so what most of us do is we see the lens of total commitment negatively. In fact, notice I put it on your notes. We see total commitment as sacrificial. We see it as self-denial. We see it as noble. We think people who are totally committed are martyrs.
Have you ever met someone who said, “I have renounced all for Jesus”? I’ve met some people like that and I have not liked to be around them very long because they’ve renounced all and somewhere in there they think they’re way better than you and me.
Here’s what I want to tell you. When Jesus taught about surrender or total commitment, it is the channel to get God’s very best in your life. But He said it’s for joy. His motivation is positive, it’s wise, it’s logical, it’s shrewd. It’s not so much renouncing as it is a reevaluation. Is ninety-five thousand dollars as valuable as thirty to forty million? This isn’t rocket science. Now, when we look at it like that, it’s easy. But when you look at the treasure that God has, it gets a little more difficult because you can’t see it.
Just as Jesus made up parables to help people in their world understand what’s going on, I took the liberty to make those two parables up. Please do not feel betrayed.
If I would have come out here – okay, are you ready – if I would have come out here and said, “Total commitment, surrender is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow. Now are you totally committed or not?
All your defenses would be – what? Uh… Uh… Uh… And you would have totally missed the point. I’ve actually taught that in my early days as a pastor. Where are the few, the proud, the Christian Marines? Come on. And I was one of those religious jerks that thought I was better than anyone because I’m committed. I totally missed the point. I didn’t understand God’s grace.
But all of you who were leaning forward thinking…here are the only thing you thought about Sheila and John: I wish I were them. Right? I wish I were them. And you know what? Sheila…is there anyone who would say, “Oh, Sheila and John were noble, they were martyrs; she gave up her Jetta…” Right? They made a big sacrifice. Where’s your focus? Your focus is like mine – sacrifice. My lands, thirty or forty million; the focus was on what they got. And that was Jesus’ point. And that’s His message to you.
How to give God what He wants the most. And I told you it involves a decision. And before our time is over together, we are going to have a very sober and holy moment where I’m not only going to explain exactly how to give God what He wants the most, but it will require a big step of faith, total commitment, and surrender. And what you’ll have to start asking is is how I hang on to things and my view and what I want versus what He can provide – which one of those am I going to trust?
It reminds me of a story I heard many years ago, and it was a story of a little girl who went on vacation with her family. And it was by the seashore, and they had one of those cottages that was right there, and you walk out the door, and the sand is there, and you could walk on the beach, and it had a little pier. And at the end of the pier was a fishing boat with a very old man.
It was in a very small town in New England and the little girl, five or six years old, cute pigtails, the whole bit – you know how they are at that age – and she would walk down to the pier and walk down and there was an old, old fisherman who was just known in the town as the mean one. He was just mean. He was old. He was bitter. His friends had died. He’d had a hard life. And so he just shut everybody out. But there’s something about a little five or six year old girl, you know, “Hi. Hi.”
Well, after day one, day two, day three, day four, his heart starts to melt. And no one’s ever treated him nice. And every day she would get shells and give him shells and she’d sit at the end of the pier with her feet dangling. And pretty soon, he’s giving her a little fishing line.
And in their seven-day vacation, a bond occurred. And he realized, No one in the whole world cares about me and I’m going to die very soon, he was in his late eighties, and this little girl doesn’t
And unbeknownst to others, he had a little pouch from over the years of fishing and he found a number of shells and pearls. And the thing that he noticed about this little girl is she would dangle her feet over, but she would always clutch, she had these little, plastic beads that you get at Wal-Mart or Target or the CVS pharmacy. You’re on vacation; kids always want something, a dollar ninety-nine, you’re all set. Oooo!
And so he noticed how much she liked them so he took his pearls and stayed up most the night, drilled holes in them, took a piece of fishing line, and made a necklace. He thought, I’m going to give it to this little six-year-old girl.
And so, the next day she came to say goodbye and the station wagon was all packed and parents are one hundred yards away and, “Okay, honey. Get ready. Yes, you can go say goodbye.” So she runs down to say goodbye and he says, “Come here, honey. I have a present for you.” And she walks up to him and they’ve been very close and he says, “Give me those plastic beads off your neck.” And then he hung out, glistening in the sun, real pearls.
Now, the problem with being five or six years old and you’re very immature – you don’t know what’s worth what. All you know is what you’re comfortable with. All you know is what feels right. And so he took another step and he said, “Here, I have these, these are real pearls. Now, take those off so I can put them on.” And the little girl stepped back, grabbed her necklace, and ran one hundred yards, jumped in the station wagon, said, “I want to go. That man tried to take my pearls.”
And I want to tell you about eight out of every nine Christians who really do sincerely love God, cling to plastic pearls and are not receiving anything close in their life experience, their relationships, or their eternal impact, what God has chosen and destined for you to have because when He says, Give Me you. Put Me first in your time, put Me first in your future, put Me first in your decisions, put Me first in your family, put Me first in your work, put Me first in your money. I want you to trust Me wholly because I have pearls, not stuff.
And if you don’t believe He’s good, if you don’t know the heart of the Father, and you just stay around Him long enough not to feel too guilty and semi-hope you go to heaven. And you cling on to the plastic, temporal, non-treasure. But when you meet the people who get more and more pearls, you realize it just weighs them down instead of giving them life. Total commitment, surrender is the conduit. It’s the channel through which God’s best and biggest blessings flow.
And so what I want to do in the remainder of our time, I want to define very specifically what total commitment looks like. We are not leading up to some emotional moment. We’re leading up to a wise decision where you’re going to weigh the risk and the logic of saying to God in a few minutes, I surrender all to You. I would sign a blank check made out to You. I would say to You from this day forward, “I’m all in.” I may be a little fearful, but I’m all in.
But in order to do that, what’s it look like? The answer is in Romans chapter 12, verse 1. And after eleven chapters of treasure, of what God has done, of how much He loves you, of His sovereignty, His goodness, His forgiveness, His power, His Spirit living within you, His gifts, all the plans that He has for you. In chapter 12, your response to that is, “Therefore I urge you, brothers, sisters, fellow family members,” the apostle Paul writes, “in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.”
Notice the structure. There’s a command, there’s a motivation, and there’s a reason. I’d like you, if you will, put a box around the word offer. Put a box around living sacrifice. And then, put a little box around the word holy. And then, I want you to put a squiggly line under spiritual act of worship.
The command is to offer your body to God. And this isn’t metaphorical. This is like your physical body: your eyes, your head, your hands, all that you are. And the word offer here is in a tense in the Greek language that’s punctiliar. And what that means is, “on a certain day at a certain time.”
This passage is not explaining how to have your sins forgiven. This passage is not explaining what it means to be in God’s family. Salvation occurs at the end of chapters 3, 4, and right in chapter 5: the work of Christ by grace. You receive the free gift by faith. Chapter 12 is saying, “How do normal Christians follow Jesus out of gratitude?”
And God says – are you ready – “this is what I want. I want you on a certain day, at a certain time, to say to Me, ‘All I am, all I have is Yours.’” That’s what it means to offer.
I will tell you that, tens of thousands of people in America and around the world do not understand the channel through which God’s best and biggest blessings flow. The average Christian somehow thinks, I receive Jesus, He’s my Savior, it’s really real, I read the Bible some, I’m really trying hard to be a good Christian but it’s not going that well.
The power for the Christian life comes in this moment of offering where, remember how that garden hose, when you’re having the water battle, gets kinked? The way to unkink it is when you say, it’s the channel, it’s the conduit, Lord…now, it requires faith. It requires believing in an invisible treasure that you can’t see.
But it’s a historical, living God who has walked up on the earth and died in your place and rose and sits at the right hand of God and says to you, “There’s an unspeakable treasure;” who for joy says to you, “Let Me give you the best.”
My first two and a half years as a Christian, I didn’t know. I got to where I was pretty undisciplined so I had never read the Bible. I trusted Christ the summer after my high school senior year. I went off to college and it took me three, four, five, six months to get where I could read the Bible maybe three or four times a week.
But God spoke to me. It was exciting. And then I went to a little Bible study and there was God’s presence and loving people and there was part of me, it was just amazing. But then, I wanted the basketball team to like me and there were all these girls and, so, Yay for God, Chip, God, Chip and Thursday night, “Oh, I experienced God’s presence,” and Friday and Saturday night, in the wee hours of the morning, “God, I’m sorry. I’ll never do that.”
I was a schizophrenic; I had all these hidden things in my life. And the joy of my salvation was creeping, creeping down as I had this salad bar spirituality: God on my terms; I obey eight point five of the commands. Eighty-five percent; doesn’t that pass? No, Chip.
And I remember going to a conference where what I just shared was taught. It was the life of Abraham. And the man – it was just thirty or forty people in a little room at a conference – and he walked us through God’s school of faith. And he got to chapter 22 where God says to His son, His only son, Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and take him on this mountain and sacrifice him to Me.”
And Abraham gets up early. He’s been with God over – he’s one hundred years old now. And we learn later that he’s learned that when God says something, you can bank on it. And although it seemed so illogical, so irrational, he did it. And he got the knife up and he was ready to come down and God said, “Stop. Now I know that you are loyal to Me, because you gave your son, your only son whom you love.”
And prior to that time, God had made some promises to Abraham about his descendants and about the future that were about this big. And after that moment of surrender, read in chapter 22. God expands, expands, expands, says, “No, Abraham. This is what I’m going to do now, because Abraham, I never wanted your boy. I would never want a sacrifice. What I wanted was your heart,” and that boy became an idol. And anytime there’s anything in front of God’s relationship with you and you have an idol, you will destroy the idol, the idol will destroy you, and that will destroy your relationship with God.
And those are the beads. Those are the plastic pearls. And they can be work and they can be family, they can be a relationship, it can be money, it can be ego, it can be your body. All of us have Isaacs. “And unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears forth much fruit.” That’s Jesus.
So I need to take my idols – in my case, it was basketball and my girlfriend – and it was like, God, I’ll do whatever You want. Don’t mess with basketball and don’t mess with my girlfriend. And at the back of that little thirty or forty people, I remember I made the most transformational decision of my life, apart from receiving Christ as my Savior.
And with fear and trembling, I got on my knees and I said, God, I am scared to death because I’m afraid that You’re going to either make me single the rest of my life or worse, I’ll marry some ugly person. I’m just telling you, okay? I’m twenty years old. What do I know?
And then I said, And God, I’ve just been playing hoops my whole life and just, when I get the ball in the middle on the break, I just love this game and…but if You…You’re God. Please don’t take that away, but it’s an idol. And I want You to know that I’m all in. I don’t know what it looks like, but I will do life and I’m sure I’ll mess up later, but I will do life Your way moving forward.
Whatever Your Word says, if it says it, I’m making a pre-decision, I may mess up, but I’m going to come back to this moment. I surrender my heart, my goals, my future, my money, my dreams. I want to do life Your way. That’s what it means to offer your body.
And then, notice it’s not just one big, emotional experience. What’s the next box? It’s living sacrifice, right? Many of you, in this room, will make that step today. Many in this room have already taken that step.
But you offer your body – how? As a living sacrifice. So the living sacrifice is a lot like marriage. In 1978, I said to Theresa, “I surrender to you, nobody else but you.” And she said, “I surrender to you.” And we said, “Let’s do this together forever, no matter what.”
But I’ve had to renew that commitment almost every day. And there were times we needed marriage counseling. We’ve had hard times with some of our kids and we’ve had health issues and we’ve had cancer. We’ve had all kinds of problems. But no matter what, because we said, “Boom. We commit to one another no matter what.” It was that commitment that has kept us together.
And it’s been the channel of God’s biggest and best blessings.
I’ve got a great wife. I’ve got a loyal wife. I’ve got the best friend I’ve ever had. I’ve got a relationship I never saw in my family growing up. I never dreamed…has it been easy? No. It’s been great.
And then, God, what does He do? He’s got such a sense of humor. I give away basketball and it took me a while so I pulled my quad completely out; missed most of that year. Then I got injured again, and then they changed coaches, and finally it was, Okay, I’m good. By my senior year, I’ll do it Your way. Surrender.
And God turns around after I graduated and I played in every country in South America. And I was just a little NAIA. That’s Division III, little school. And then, once I surrendered, God said, You know… He got me on this team and I’m playing against Olympic teams all over South America and later with an Australian team throughout all the Orient.
See, the issue is not He wants to take something good away. The issue is any good thing that stands between you and Him that’s an idol will destroy your relationship with Him. And by the way, it’ll destroy your relationship with the idol.
So it’s a living sacrifice, you make the commitment, but then it’s daily renewing and living. And it’s holy. That’s the last word. It’s holy.
You can’t come and not deal with your stuff. There are some of you, you’re sitting here at this moment, you’re thinking, If I surrender this relationship with this rotten guy or this girl that I know isn’t God’s will but I sure love her… God would say, “You know it’s not right.” For some of you, you’re realizing, Probably living together is not an option if I surrender. For others of you, you’re going, Oh, my gosh. My priorities are so out of whack. I’m a workaholic or my finances are a mess.
See, it’s holy. No blemished sheep. He’s just saying, “You come as you are.” But there’s this commitment to say, God, I’m not playing games. I’m going to do life Your way. And then, I’m going to bring all of me. And that’s not only the good stuff, but you’re going to come and say, I’m bringing my fears of rejection, I’m bringing my fears of the future, I’m bringing my fears of what You might do. I trust that You’re a good God.
In fact, notice the motivation. The motivation is not: Get with the program. It’s the mercy of God, the mercy of God. He’s looking back on the last eleven chapters but he’s saying…God’s asking for all of you, but what has He done? He has loved you. He has forgiven you. He has paid for your sin. He has caused the Spirit to come into your body. He has taken you from the kingdom of darkness and put you in the kingdom of light. He has adopted you as a daughter or as a son. He has a purpose for your life. He’s creating a place at this very moment, in heaven, for you. He’s laid down His life.
He says, “Can’t you trust Me?” This is like someone who you’ve given a million dollars to and they come to you and you say, “Hey, do you…do you think I could borrow twenty bucks?” He goes, “I don’t know. I don’t know if you’d pay it back.” And you go, “What do you mean, you don’t know whether I’d pay it back? I gave you a million dollars.” “Yeah, well, I don’t know.”
See, do you start to get the kingdom logic? How could you not to a God who has demonstrated, while you were His enemy and I was His enemy, laid down His life…how can we not believe that He’s good, that He’s compassionate, that He’s kind? See, this is not a: Get with the program, be a superstar or a Christian Marine. This is a: let your Father love you. Let’s remove the barriers.
And the final reason is your spiritual act of worship. In other words, what God really wants. We started out with a question that leads to a decision. The question is: How do you give God what He wants the most? Are you ready for this? It gets real simple. God wants you, all of you, every aspect of you.
See, you can read the Bible, you can pray, you can come to church, you can give some money, you can go on a missions trip, you can try and be a good moral person, you can do all kinds of things.
There was a group in the New Testament that did all that and more, and Jesus said the harshest things that ever came out of His mouth about those religious people because their hearts weren’t His. They were in control and they used their religion, and they thought they were better than other people. They weren’t tender. They weren’t broken. They weren’t loving.
Left to ourselves, we are a people who will create some little grid or model about how we’re okay with God because we’re doing this, this, this, this, and this as we gain and keep control. And your control always is shown by where your money goes, where your time goes, where your energy goes, and what you dream about. And when He has your heart in those areas, I’ll tell you what, those things get transformed.
And then – are you ready – you discover why you’re here. You discover what your purpose is. You discover there really is more to life than setting goals and accomplishing them. You experience the treasure both now and the promise forever. He wants you.
As you turn to the back page, I wanted to just give you two pictures that have been very helpful to me. One is a blank check.
And I want to tell you. Please do not hear: Everything will be easy and wonderful and great. In fact, many of you will be tested. Abraham didn’t take a rubber knife up there. It may get worse before it gets better.
The Holy Spirit would say, “Well, how’s it working for you your way?”
And today: Pay to the Order of Jesus Christ. And there’s a date, and you’ll write today’s date and then you’ll sign your name.
And there’ll be a sense of fear in your heart, but it’ll be a step of faith and you’ll say, I’m all in, God. You can cash this. You can cash this with my future, You cash this with my relationships, You cash this with my finances, You cash with my career, You cash it with my geography. I will do whatever You want me to do. I believe You’re that good and that kind. And I actually believe that You can pick out what’s better for me than I could pick out for me.
Do you see how arrogant it is when we say to God, Oh, I want Your forgiveness and Your salvation, but I’ll run my life because I’m way smarter than You. You created the universe, but look at me. So I really want you to think: risk, reason, the decision-making process.
What it means to fill out the check, I came across a small excerpt of a prayer by a lady named Ruth Myers. And just lean back – you can even shut your eyes – when you think about what it means for you to sign this check in just a moment, think of a prayer that might go something like this.
“Lord, I’m Yours. Whatever the cost may be, Your will be done in my life. I realize that I’m not on earth to do my own thing or to seek my own fulfillment or my own glory. I’m not here to indulge my desires or increase my possessions or to impress people; to be popular or to prove I’m somebody important or to promote myself. I’m not even here to be relevant and successful by human standards. I’m here on this earth to please You. And so now I offer myself to You, for You are worthy. All that I am or hope to be, I owe to You. I am Yours by creation and I’m Yours by the purchase price of Your Son on the cross that paid for my sin.
“And so, right now, I give You my body and each of its members, my entire inner being. I give You my mind, my emotional life, my will, my loved ones, my marriage or my hope for marriage. I give You, right now, my abilities and my gifts, my strengths and my weaknesses, my health and my status – whether it be high or low. I give You my possessions, my past, my present, and my future. And I even give You when You want to bring me home to be with You. I’m here to love You and to obey You and to glorify You.”
You ready to take that step? It’ll be the greatest decision you ever, ever make.
And for some of you that are a little bored, if you play lots of video games, watch a lot of TV, have to go to a lot of movies, find yourself shopping or eating a lot, you know what those are? Those are symptoms of a life of boredom. That’s a symptom of nothing of genuine purpose and focus. That’s a symptom of medicating yourself with plastic pearl beads.
I had a little struggle growing up, long before I was a Christian. I like adventure. I like excitement. I like risk. And so someone early introduced me to cards, so I played cards Friday night, gambled. And then I was fascinated with horse racing, so by my senior year, Tuesday and Friday nights, I played the horses. And I just can’t tell you the thrill that it is to put down two dollars, your very first bet, and win one hundred and three dollar quinella. I thought, What an easy way to make money.
And so that sent me on a journey where I found myself about a year and a half later, literally, in the boys’ bathroom; I put my feet up on the commode so they couldn’t see me. And when the three linemen on the football team that I owed a few hundred dollars to were coming to collect in a very inappropriate way to my body, I decided to quit gambling. I wasn’t a Christian; wasn’t anything spiritual to it. It was like, This is nuts and I got a problem.
But I have to tell you, when I turn on the old TV and the World Poker Texas Hold ‘Em is on, I just have to check it out. And here’s what I love, because there’s a great principle. It’s the final table. They’ve got all these stacks, millions of dollars. The pot’s worth fourteen point seven million dollars. Two low hold cards – risk –hmmm, these are good cards. Reason…evaluating everything I’ve seen this guy do in response. Action…faith…you can probably finish it with me, right? I’m all in.
And then, what happens? Electricity happens. The game completely changes. Then he steps up. He starts walking around. Why? Here’s why. Because something’s going to happen. There’s no reward until you get to the point where you say, “I’m all in.” He’s either going to get a bracelet and multiple millions of dollars or he’s going to lose.
And I want to tell you that the God of the universe brought you in this room on this day for you to say to Him, I’m all in. And when you do, you will begin to experience power and excitement and challenge and purpose like you’ve never known because just like in Texas Hold ‘Em, the game never really gets interesting until you’re all in.
And my sad observation is the great majority of Christians that I know are just trying to be nice people, trying to get a little bit better mobility for their family, trying to figure out how to balance all the demands, be a little bit more polite than most people, read their Bible now and then and come to church and put a little salve on the guilt of your soul. And your heavenly Father, I think with tears in His eyes, says, Why won’t you taste the treasure?
Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. But those that come, must believe that He is and that He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Father, as we bow our heads and You are working deeply and powerfully inside the hearts and minds of the people in this room, I pray that You would grant faith and courage to sign the check, not just the perfunctory action of doing it in just a moment, but the signing of the check from their heart, even with the fear and concern and say, “God, I am Yours. All I am, all I have, all I hope to be. You deal.”
Lord, I pray for those that know that there’s real hard decisions that need to be made, that You would give them the courage to mentally make that, to tell You in their heart right now what they are going to do, and find a trusted friend that they can share that with.
Lord, for those that this is the first time, God, I pray for supernatural grace. For those that have made this commitment before, as they sign it, could You help them reaffirm and be reminded: this is what the Christian life is all about.
And then, finally, Lord, for those that, in their heart of hearts, just say, in integrity, “I couldn’t sign that. I've got to deal with something. I’ve got to resolve a couple things.” Lord, would You help them to be honest with themselves and honest with You and get help? We love You. Help us to want more of You. Help us to turn in our plastic pearls for the real thing. Amen.