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Discipleship: You Were Created to Become Like Christ
Scripture: Romans 8:29
Track 5 of 8 in the Purpose-Driven Life series
Running time: 33 minutes, 28 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, October 09, 2005
5th sermon in an 8-part series.
Purposeful Words: A series of Sermons on living a Purpose-Driven life
(Romans 8:29)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

Created for a purpose. Part of a body of people who were created to be what God intended them to be in this world and to make a difference.

The first thing we talked about was Worship. We were prepared for His pleasure. We talked a bit about fellowship, forming a family, where we interact with one another.

Next week we're going to take a look at ministry; how we have been designed to serve. In fact, we're going to have the entire lobby and hallways full of the various ministry opportunities that exist in this congregation and will encourage you, ah, to go and visit. We'll actually do our very best to let you out of church early so that you can make that a part of your worship time, where you simply go in that context and ask what it is that God may be designing you to do as a form of ministry.

The next week we'll have a mission fair. And in that mission fair, we will highlight what it is that God is in the world trying to do globally, as well as, locally. And we'll have missionary representatives from all of the mission that we support. They will be set up out there. This is going to be a special weekend.

On Saturday evening there will be "a Special Missions" meal that will be served. I understand it's going to be international cuisine. So you won't want to miss that on Saturday night and then be back here Sunday morning for worship and study and an opportunity to meet and visit with some of our missionaries and get acquainted with the things that we're doing.

The last Sunday of our 40 Days is a Celebration and it is going to be a special day. We're anxious to hear the kinds of things that God is already doing in your life. In fact, if you didn't see it on the slide, we would love for you to either drop a note off or e-mail us at the office and just share with us some things that may be going on in your life as you are hearing people talk about what God is doing during this 40 Day period.

Celebration Sunday will be just one service. Thought I would give you advanced warning. We're going to meet here at 9:00. It will be a bit longer service and then we're going to have brunch together. It's going to be a very nice Sunday morning and we're just going to spend some time in fellowship and food and conversation after our worship, so please plan on that.

Now, having said that, I have a special appeal to make as well. Because we're going to be in one service, that means our parking lot is going to be absolutely full. So, we have a sign up sheet out at the ministry center that says, "I'll park someplace else." We will try to have a shuttle running from the bank parking lot over on the other side of 48th Street. If we could get about a hundred of you to put your cars over there, that would help us immensely to make room for our guests. So if you are able and willing to do that, if you'll just let us know, we'll count on you and we'll figure out how to get you from there to here. If nothing else, we'll come walk with you. One of the two.

This morning, we want to talk about the fact that we were created to become like Christ. It is part and parcel of whom we are trying to be here. That is right at the heart of what we're trying to accomplish at Madison Park Christian Church. To help people become more like Christ. To be formed into the image of the Son of God. There's not a lot about God's ability to see the future and to do things in the future that I understand. If you ask me about predestination, I'm at a loss to try to explain how God does what He does or how He knows what He knows, but I am fully aware of

Romans 8:29 that God has foreordained. He has predetermined that everyone who believes in His Son will be shaped into the image of His Son.

Now however else everything else comes about, this much I do know. When you became a believer in Jesus, when you said, "I want to follow Christ." You stepped into a plan that God had in mind to shape you into the image of His Son to make you more and more like Christ.

Now, that's not an uncommon theme that runs through Scripture. In fact, I just jotted a number of places down. I don't expect you to try to keep up with these but for example; in Matthew 28:16-20 in the great commission where we're told to go and "make disciples", we're supposed to teach them to obey everything that God has commanded us.

He says in Colossians 1:28-29 that Paul wants to "present every man complete, or mature or perfect" in Christ.

In 2Corinthians 3:18 he says, we're being "transformed into the image of God." In 2Corinthians 5:14-17 "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature . . . . old things are passed away. . . . everything is becoming new."

1John 2:28-3:3 "we shall become like him. . . ." 1John 3:4-10 the "children of God are obvious. . . . .you can tell them when you see them."

2Timothy 2:2 "faithful men will train other faithful men, who will train other faithful men to be faithful men."

Ephesians 4:11-16. We will all attain "the stature of Christ. . . ."

Luke 6:40. A person who is "fully trained, will be like his teacher. . . . ."

Romans 6:1-11. We are "alive to God and we look like Christ. . . . ." Romans 12:1-2. We've already looked at where it says, "that we should be transformed by the renewing of our mind as we present our bodies as living sacrifices."

The image of Scripture is that we will come to the place, that we will look like Christ.

It's interesting, as you have been reading through your book and thinking about the kinds of things that you're going to run into in the next week as you read. One of the things that you're going to encounter is this idea that Rick Warren presents which is both troubling and at the same time, challenging, that God never intended to give you comfort nor, is He totally concerned about your career. But He is interested in your character. That when you go to weigh things, what He's really interested in is who you are and not what you do, nor whether you're comfortable.

That process, that journey, that we go on toward becoming like Christ is called "discipleship". It's learning to follow Jesus. It's learning to do the things that Jesus does. And it is our vision here that we would be "a community of believers who look like Jesus." Who have learned to follow.

So I just did some random thinking this week and asked myself this question. "If I'm going to follow Jesus, I'm going to become like Jesus, what are some of the things that I need to think about?" Well, for example, this is so terribly obvious, I hate to even bore you with it.

If you want to become like Jesus, you're going to have to know something about Him. Otherwise, you don't know who you're looking like. You don't have any idea what He looks like. And so, for you to look like Jesus, you're going to have to find out something about who He is. And so, we are encouraging you to read your Bibles. We're encouraging you to be a part of a Bible study, in some kind, either privately or with our women or in a bridge community, or on Sunday morning as a regular part of your daily lives. 2Timothy 3:16-17 says, that the word of God is inspired and it's profitable and in that profit, it will help you become everything that God needs for you to be, so that you become fully mature in Christ.

You need Scripture in you and you need to be in Scripture. I hope you're working at those memory verses. I hope you, well, you wouldn't know this because you were in first service last week. I had a terrible time in second service last week, just trying to get this phrase out. "Love your neighbor as yourself." Somehow that would not come. Now it's not that hard. Is it? Huh? I mean, the loving them is, it's the saying that's not all that tough. That memory thing, ya know, can you put this in your head and in your heart? If you know what Jesus looks like, then you'll have a better idea of knowing how to respond in key situations. Because you'll be able to have an answer to the question. What would Jesus do in this circumstance? How did Jesus respond to these things? If you know that, then you know how to respond.

So if you're going to look like Jesus, one of the things is you're going to have to know something about Him. But that's going to make you make a decision. And that is, if you're going to look like Jesus, you're going to have to learn to imitate Him. Because knowing what He did, is not sufficient, it's doing what He did that becomes the challenge. I'm fascinated by that image of imitation that runs through Scripture.

Paul is bold enough in Ephesians 5:1 to simply say "be imitators of God." That's a pretty tall order. But that's what He asks for. Imitate God. He says in 1Corinthians 4:16 "be imitators of me." Wow! And then he'll turn around seven chapters later and say in 1Corinthians 11:1 "be imitators of me, even as I imitate Christ." In 1Thessalonians 1:6 he reminds this church to "be imitators of Paul and the Lord." In Hebrews 6:12 we're to imitate the "faithfulness of believers." And in Hebrews 13:7 he says that we're to imitate "leaders who imitate Christ." There is this theology of imitation. It is the power of finding someone worth looking up to and following them.

I ran across this article. It came out in the Associated Press. It's a brief summary of an article that came out in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. It's labeled Two Truths: Children learn fast, and children watch their parents. It's about the power of imitation.

A recent study found preschoolers pretending to shop for a Barbie doll's social evening were more likely to choose cigarettes if their parents smoked, and wine or beer if their parents drank. Researchers also found that the ones who watched PG-13 or R-rated movies were more likely to choose alcohol for Barbie.

In the study, published in the September issue of the Archives, the study is important because it emphasizes the impact of parents' behavior. "If parents don't want their kids to be smoking they shouldn't be setting the example." says the author of the article.

The study included 120 children, ages 2 to 6. Led by a researcher, each child, acting as a Barbie or Ken doll, shopped for a visiting friend. A store stocked with 133 miniature items gave the children choices, including meat, fruit, vegetables, snacks, nonalcoholic drinks, cigarettes, beer and wine. The children could "buy" anything they wanted by filling a small grocery cart and taking it to a small checkout counter.

Twenty-eight percent of the children bought cigarettes, and 61 percent bought alcohol. The children whose parents smoked were four times more likely to buy cigarettes. The children whose parents drank at least monthly were three times more likely to buy alcohol.

Do you hear this? They were imitating what they saw. So it becomes pretty important who your role model is, doesn't it?

So if we're going to be like Jesus, then we're going to have to learn to imitate what He does. And, if you're going to imitate what He does, you're going to have to know what He does. So to be like Christ, you're going to have to know something about

Him and you're going to have to intend to imitate Him. And if you're really going to be something like Him, you're going to have to decide to follow Him. Not just imitate Him, but follow Him.

In Luke 9:23 Jesus makes this comment. . . . .follow me. . . . . .take up your cross daily and follow me. I particularly like that passage better in Mark than I do in Luke, not because of the "daily" remark being omitted, but because of the context in which it occurs in Mark 8, 9 & 10.

Jesus has just asked, "Who do men say that I am?" And they said, "Well, some people say that you are one of the prophets, some think you are John the Baptist come back from the dead." He says, "Who do you think I am?" And Peter says, "You are the Christ." And Jesus says, "I'm going to go to Jerusalem and die." And Peter says, "No, you're not." "What do you mean, No you're not?" So Jesus says, "Peter, get behind me."

Do you understand what that means? The only place you can follow somebody is if you are behind them and Peter was trying to lead not follow. I understand why he didn't want to go to Jerusalem with Jesus. If Jesus got done saying to me, "I'm gonna go to Jerusalem and die; come follow me." I'm apt to say you're not going either.

But if you want to be Christ-like; if, in fact, you want to fulfill this purpose for which you are created that God is shaping you to be like Christ, and you're going to determine to follow Him, then that intention is going to take you wherever He goes.

Here is where I think Rick Warren has given us some really good material to think about over the upcoming week. He talks about "unexpected tools" that God uses to teach us as we follow. Very interesting set of things that you're going to run into. Some of you that have already been through this before, already know. He talks about following Christ in this sense. In my language I would say you follow Him to the desert.

What Warren talks about is that there are temptations that come along that are designed to teach us to be obedient. You remember that situation after Jesus' decision to follow God. He's made up His mind that He's going to do whatever it is that God desires for Him to do so He goes to the Jordan River. He is baptized by John the Baptist to fulfill all righteousness and immediately, He is taken to the desert for forty days of intense temptation. And in that time of temptation, what you see Jesus do, is repeatedly come back to Scripture and say, "My responsibility is to honor God. To obey Him only."

Temptation comes along to us all. We might as well just get that in our head. There isn't anybody in this room immune to temptation. It's common to us all. In fact, that's one of the things that's important to understand. 1Corinthians 10:13 is very clear. You are not tempted to something that no one else has ever experienced. You are not alone in this thing. In fact, Paul would say, "every temptation taken by man is common to us all." But in every case, God makes a way of escape. He gives us a way to get out.

Temptation, while common to us all, is not sin, and it is probably important for you to understand that. That just because you have been tempted by something, doesn't mean that you have sinned. It's not until you have succumbed to that temptation that it becomes sin.

Martin Luther would say it this way. "You can't stop a bird from flying over your head. You can stop him from building a nest in your hair." I've liked that quotation ever since I saw it. Because so many things are so frustrating when you encounter temptation, you're troubled even by the fact that you are even thinking about it. But once you dismiss it and walk away, it's not sin to have been tempted. We're all tempted and frankly, you should understand that every temptation is intended to harm you. Satan desires to do you wrong. Everything about him is evil and he desires to destroy, in you, everything about God that is in you. And so, when you're tempted to sin, you must never turn around and think there's nothing wrong with this. If it's a temptation to sin, it will ultimately have bad consequences.

The problem is, where we turn when we're tempted. Some of us are tempted to turn in the wrong direction. And where we turn in our temptation is a very clear indication of who has our heart. When you are tempted, the place that you turn is to Christ, the One who has always and already endured what you have gone through. And you look with Him for the way out.

Unfortunately, many of us turn in other directions. We turn to alcohol or drugs. We turn to pornography. We turn to other places that somehow seem to relieve us of this feeling of frustration over the temptation rather than coming to Christ and letting Him help us deal with this. Temptation ought to teach you to be obedient. It ought to teach you to always come back to think about the things of God. Now that's hard. It's a discipline. There's nothing easy about overcoming temptation. But implant in your head, at least this one Scripture. "If anything is good, if anything is pure, if anything is noble, if anything is right, think on these things." And when the thought of temptation comes turn in that other direction. Force yourself to think about good things. And view temptation no longer as a threat, but now as a tool, where God can teach you about obedience.

The second tool that he talks about, which he says is a bit of an unexpected tool, is trouble. I would talk about it this way. Not only do we follow Jesus to a desert, we follow Him to a garden. You remember Gethsemane? The night in which He was betrayed, when He went to a place by Himself except that He didn't really go by Himself. He took His disciples with Him. But He went because He and God had this encounter over whether or not He was ultimately going to go to the Cross. He was troubled, it says. Troubled so much that He sweat, as if it were great drops of blood.

It's that moment in the life of Jesus where you sensed tense battle going on about whether He is going to do what God wants Him to do, ultimately, or is He going to turn and walk away? So three different times He prays. Two different times He says. "Not my will, but yours." And in the midst of that trouble, He learns to trust.

In fact, I think I will always remember running across this text of Scripture in Hebrews 5:7-8. It was one of those befuddling texts that I guess, I just had never seen before or had read it and just didn't ever let it register. It caused me to do one of those "double-takes" when you're reading your Bible. Hebrews 5:7-8. says, it's about this garden experience. He says in Hebrews 5:7-8 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. . . . . .

The Son of God, Himself, "learned obedience" by trusting God in the midst of difficult times. I understand that there are days when it is extremely hard to endure what life brings and the challenge of those troubles is to trust God to know best. When nothing makes sense, when all of life is crumbling around you, the challenge of following Jesus and being made in His likeness is the ability to trust that God, does, in fact, know what He's doing. Even when you don't know if He knows. But you trust Him anyway.

Such a difficult issue, isn't it? To be able to trust? To be able to let God be God when life isn't making sense, but you trust Him. You trust Him because you understand that He knows things that you don't know. You trust Him because He sees a future that you don't yet see. In fact, twice in Scripture, that kind of future orientation is appealed to. 2Corinthians 4:17 says we suffer this momentary affliction in light of a future when it will no longer exist.

Romans 8:18 reminds us that the suffering we endure in this life is not to be compared with the glory that we will receive in the next. Our problem is that we are just so close to it and it is so utterly painful when you're in the middle of it. But the challenge of being like Christ is the ability like Christ, to say, "Not my will, but yours" and to trust Him that His will is right.

Warren is correct. God is not interested in your comfort. He's interested in your character. He's not interested in your career. He's interested in your character.

Out our back yard we are able every afternoon and Saturday morning to watch the Jr. High football team practice. It's actually somewhat comedic at some times, since I'm not there, having to endure it. I remember those days well and glad that I'm not out there doing it. But I've become convinced of this one thing. Those coaches do not care about those kids comfort. They don't! But I do think that they care about their character, their character as players, and probably their character as young men. But they're teaching them a discipline that will get them someplace in a football game and hopefully someplace in life.

God sometimes feels a bit like a cruel taskmaster, when, in fact, all it is, is preparation because He knows what's coming and what you need. To be like Christ is to follow Him to a garden, where you will learn to say, "I trust you" no matter what.

The third rather odd tool that Warren talks about is trespasses. He talks about trespasses teaching us to forgive. I would say, not only do you follow Him to a desert and follow Him to a garden, you follow Him to a Cross.

1Peter 2:23 is so clear about how He was despised and yet He didn't return that despicable character back. When you read the Gospel accounts of the Cross scene, what you see are people who are spitting and mocking and making fun. It's not enough that he was whipped and crowned with thorns, it's that image of Him hanging on a Cross and the passers-by making fun of Him and spitting on Him and mocking Him as they go by. And in the midst of all of that, do you recall the word of Jesus? Do you understand here that this is the God of the Universe who created this whole place, whom one song writer has said, had the power to call ten thousand angels. That's not, that's just the least of what He could have done had He chosen to come down off of that Cross. But instead of using His power to get revenge, what did He do? "Father forgive them. . . ."

Some of you have them horribly abused, mistreated, victimized by people; people you thought you could care about, people that you thought you loved, people you thought were your partners in life, people who have just done you wrong. And in you, is going to be a battle that says, "Will I forgive?"

I ran across this letter that Rick Warren uses in his sermon on this particular day. Warren says, "I got a letter from a 17-year-old young woman in our church. I've known her for 15 years, since she was a baby. She grew up in this church. She wrote me her story of how her neighbor across the street abused her for years. Sexual abuse. She kept it, a secret. The neighbor was finally caught for the rape of another woman; was put in prison and she, (this young girl) was called to testify in court as a young teenager. Here's a portion of the letter this girl wrote."

Pastor Rick, by allowing God to take control and lift the burden of my hurt from my heart, God gave me strength. Today I can truthfully say that because of the trials I've faced, I've been made stronger. Recently I read a book called Where is God When It Hurts? and, there was a sentence that I've found to be true. It says this, "Faith in God offers no assurance against tragedy, but in every case suffering offers an opportunity for us to display God's work".

I stand in awe of people who are in the midst of suffering, able to forgive, who have found the ability like Christ to hold back the power of vengeance and offer forgiveness, maturity at its very best.

Discipleship. It's God's goal, His purpose for you.. . . . . to look like Jesus. The challenge is really quite simple. For you to make a decision whether you intend to follow Him or not, but make it, knowing that if you choose to follow Him, you will be following Him to a wilderness where you will be tempted. You will follow Him to a garden where you will be troubled. You will follow Him to a Cross where you will have to die to yourself.

We're just here to tell you that following Him is the only thing that really makes any difference because the world may try to offer you all kinds of alternative solutions. Life has taught the older among us that those solutions are not all that helpful.

There are some of you who have been Christians for years. And would we to put a microphone here in front of the aisle and ask you to stand up, you could say, "God has always been faithful. Life has not always been easy but God has always been faithful." Temptations didn't go away but success came more often. Troubles were not easier, but trust came more quickly. Forgiveness was never simple but always refreshing.

Back on our wall there are some trees. They're starting to spout a few leaves. You know, even as we sing, you are welcome to go back there and write on those leaves. You don't have to stand where you're standing. If you've made a decision to follow Jesus. If you've said, I will determine, I will intend to become Christ-like, you may want to write that as a testimony to the rest of us. But that's the invitation today. To just decide in your heart, I'm going to do whatever it takes to allow Jesus to dictate who I am. I'm going to get to know Him better and as I get to know Him I'm going to imitate Him. In fact, I'm going to go way beyond just mere imitation, I'm going to choose to follow Him no matter what.

If you've never made that decision public and you're ready to make it, we're here for you. We can receive you today. If you don't know how to respond to that invitation, if you're not sure what you should do then please come and see us and talk with you and walk with you through that journey. But we're inviting you, we're encouraging you, we are begging you, trust Him. Seek nothing more than an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Be His disciple.

Let us stand.