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Trying to Live for Jesus Will Only Frustrate You
02/11/2007
Scripture: Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:3-5; Romans ...
Track 5 of 7 in the 7 Truths That Will Make You Sweat series
Running time: 58 minutes, 53 seconds.


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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


I guess the best way to say this is just come right out and say it: the concept of “living for Jesus” in the sense of trying to do what Jesus would do can, and often does, produce a life of real frustration. Now before you start throwing things at me, think about what I just said a minute. What is wrong with the phrase “Living for Jesus”?

The phrase WWJD (What would Jesus do) has become very popular but trying to live for is a problem. The problem lies in two words: trying and for. Nowhere in the Bible will we find the idea that we are to live for Jesus even though it sounds really great and noble. However, we are to live in Jesus and allow Jesus to live through us. It might sound as though I am playing a game of just words, but these small words means a huge difference in how being a Christian really works.

As we have studied over the past few weeks, Christ is in us. His life is perfect, holy and pleasing to God. We no longer live but rather, Jesus lives in us. We can not become holier by striving to be holy, this is accomplished by Jesus working through us.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

In order to really understand what this is all about, we really have to come to grips with trying and for when it comes to our lives with Jesus. This might sound as though I am playing games here but in many lives of Christians, these two words are the problems for their frustrations in their Christian lives. These two little words hold the key to greater peace and rest.

For some reason there are Christians that believe that once saved, there is something they now must do to be “good Christians”. Is there such a thing as a “good Christian”?

The idea of a “good Christian” means there must also be “bad Christians”. We learned in previous lessons and other studies that there are only Christians and non-Christians. A person is either in Christ or not. You are either a child of God or your not. It is all or nothing. But this concept of good or bad Christians comes from the misunderstanding of who we really are. We judge by what we see on the outside, not what God sees on the inside. We are not what we see in the mirror.

Yet, many Christians feel they have to be doing something. Much of the letter to the Galatian church was written chastising them for trying to be good Christians through outward obedience, self effort and keeping the law. Paul wrote this:

Galatians 3:3-5 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Here is a question to ponder: If you already have Christ in you, why go backwards and try to be more perfect on your own? Is Jesus not enough?

Romans 4:2-4 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.

Think about this a minute, for those of you who receive a paycheck, when you receive your paycheck, do you thank your boss when he or she hands you your money? In fact, some might even grumble under their breath that the boss is not paying you enough. Most don’t say thanks because your paycheck is not a favor,you earned it.

That is what Paul is talking about, to him who works for favor, it isn’t grace. It’s a debt. In other words, if we can work to get to gain God’s favor so we can get to heaven, then he owes us and God would be in debt to us.

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

In the Bible, grace and works are absolutely opposed to each other. It can’t be both. The gift of eternal life, our salvation itself is free. There can be no boasting in that. In our daily walk, we are saved by grace so we should also live by grace.

Maybe God Deserves a Tip?

I know for myself, when I think about my salvation and all that Jesus did and is doing for me in my life, I am so very grateful. In prayer when I deal with this issue, all that comes from my mouth is thanksgiving. How can I ever repay God for what he has done? The answer we all have to understand is, WE CAN’T! What Jesus did for us is so far beyond our own efforts. But, is it an insult to God if we don’t try? Is saying thank you enough? Don’t we need to leave something on the table to show we appreciate all he did for us?

When you eat out at a restaurant, how accepting is it to waitress or waiter to just say thanks for their service and effort and not leave a tip? Unfortunately, that is how some Christians think when they try to serve God. I realize I can’t repay him but I at least can leave behind something.

Read Luke 14:7-14

I want to hammer this passage over and over again so you get totally understand what Jesus is saying. It is better to be humble, grateful and accepting of grace than to seek to repay such goodness.

Look at verse 11, what is the point Jesus wants us to understand about trying to do good things for him while under grace? Any attempt to repay God is elevating ourselves to a level that is unwarranted and unachievable.

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said it this way: God accomplishes His plan by his own unaided omnipotence. If he speaks, it is done--done by Himself. He doesn’t depend upon the cooperation of the puny strength of men.

Hey, God--At least I Could Hand You the Tools

Here is a shocking thought I want you to consider, God doesn’t even want us to try to live the Christian life! Now before you hang me up by my thumbs, I want you to be patient with me a minute. The term or concept of the “Christian Life” is a man-made term. You won’t see that anywhere in the Bible. Even the term “Christian” wasn’t coined until long after Jesus life on this Earth. We don’t see it being used to label people until later in the books of Acts at Antioch. So here is a hard question to consider:

Why is it that as believers we readily accept we are saved by grace but when we enter into our relationship with Jesus we begin to try to live the Christian life?

Let’s look at it this way, if we could not help ourselves to become saved, what makes us think we can now help ourselves to accomplish his work in us? Does grace go out the window once we become a Christian? We accept and believe that we didn’t do anything to merit eternal life on our own, that salvation is not based on any works--so why is it many believe the rules change once we become Christians? The answer is; the rules don’t change. God saved us by grace and he wants us to live by grace!

Here is the point and here is the good news, our salvation by grace is by its nature a life changing power.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

It is not you that does the good work or word, it is God who does it. Our job is not to go out and do it, our job is to take comfort in that fact and give him all the glory. Our very obedience comes as a result of God’s Spirit working in us. It is not something we do ourselves. We can’t muster up obedience nor can we take any credit for it.

Galatians 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

So how do you know if your obedience is a result of the pride of the flesh or the work of the Spirit? Obedience is always and only possible through the work of the Spirit. It all comes down to 2 words: Trying versus Trusting. You are either trying to achieve it on your own or you are trusting in God’s grace at work in you empowering you to be obedient. If you are trying, it is of the flesh. If you re trusting, it is of the Spirit.

Romans 15:17-19 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.

Who was it that did all these things? Paul said it was not by him, but by the power of the Spirit working through him. His obedience is based on the Spirit, not his own works.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Even though Paul labored, he knew it was not by his own might, but by the might supplied by the grace of God. That is why grace is so wonderful. Christians sing about grace and we talk a lot about grace and we thank God for His grace but many don’t live grace. In all we do, God doesn’t want us to take one ounce of credit for all that is accomplished. He is the one who makes it all work.

How many of you have seen the phrase: God is My Co-Pilot? What are your thoughts about this. True or false? Remember what Paul told the Athenians in his great sermon in Athens:

Acts 17:24-28 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

According to this passage, are we God’s co-pilot? According to grace, we are so fortunate to just be passengers in the plane sitting back in coach. Too often our view of God is way too small. We act as though God is controlled by us and he is so grateful we believe in him. In fact, the opposite is true. God doesn’t need us at all and in many situations, doesn’t want our help.

Too many Christians live their lives as though God is too small to affect anything in their lives. We say we trust God but according to our view of him we say, “Thanks God but no thanks, I’ll handle things the way I want to. I know what you promise but you are not big enough to handle the problems I deal with everyday.

God wants us to know he is in charge and he has all the control. Many Christians make the mistake thinking that God has all the control and yet, God still needs us to accomplish his plan. In other words, God needs us to cooperate in order to fulfill his end result. But what happens if we mess up, don’t cooperate or just miss his calling? What then happens to his plan? If we could somehow mess up God’s plan, then we could argue that we, not God is in control.

Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Here is the point to all I have been teaching today, God has a plan or mission for our lives. He not only knows what we will do, he has also planned our steps. Solomon wrote about this very same thing when he wrote:

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Proverbs 16:1 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue.

What Solomon is saying is, we might have plans of our own but it is the plans of God that will prevail. God doesn’t redeem us from death only to sit back and see what happens. God sought us out and purchased us and put his Spirit within us to do something specific, to accomplish His will on this earth. God isn’t sitting on pins and needles wondering what we might do.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Does this mean that we are controlled by God and that we no longer have free will in doing it? No, but when the person surrenders to Jesus to work though him, that individual will accomplish all that God has planned for him to do and he will do it based on God’s power, not his own.

Any good works that we do is because of God. God ordains it and God performs it. That is why James writes the way he does about the counterfeit Christian. You can’t produce good works consistently on your own. It takes God to do it. And when it is done, God alone deserves all the Glory. If you believe it is all up to you, then you are setting yourself up for a long life of frustration, disappointment and condemnation. Unfortunately, Christians carry around this huge burden that they don’t have to carry.