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Resolved: This Year I Will . . .
Scripture: Romans 14:19; Luke 13:22; 2 Peter 1:5; H...
Track 52 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 31 minutes, 08 seconds.
A lifelong habit begins with a single decision.

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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, December 28, 2003
"Resolved: This Year I Will. . ."
(A lifelong habit begins with a single decision )
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

It's been a bit of a puzzle to know exactly where to go today. It's the end of the year. So many different things we might talk about. And yet, as Brian said, one of the things that we want to do is try and pull together the last four months of our church life and re-visit if we can, that basic, fundamental decision that we want to become a community of believers where everybody looks a lot like Christ. That is our vision you know, for this congregation, that we will be a community of faith, where every member looks like Jesus.

We've spent every Sunday for the last several months talking about the various core values that we hold dear to our life. The values we feel strongly about, as far as, outreach and worship and ministry and preaching.

I hope you were paying attention to the lyrics that you just sang because they are so strongly connected to what we're talking about this morning. Words about passion, phrases like, I will, a phrase that wouldn't be too hard to I suppose, challenge in our life, I will be more undignified than this. Well, we're pretty dignified, so that shouldn't be too hard to accomplish.

I ended last Sunday with this statement. I sometimes think I have not convinced you. Somehow there is this sense that when a preacher preaches, it is his job to convince you. I don't know if I know how to do that, but I will do my dead level best to try to convince you. And what I want to try to convince you about is this one fundamental simple truth that I have said multiple times from this place. It's not about being in the right place at the right time. It is not about sitting in the right pew, being inside the right building. Being a Christian is about a relationship with a person. It's about a growing relationship you have with Jesus Christ, who then begins to transform who you are into what he's like. And quite frankly, our efforts matter. That's one of the strange tensions that exists in the Christian faith, that what we decide makes a difference. So as I was thinking about this message, I literally took that idea of making every effort and just looked at a number of places where that idea occurs in the New Testament. Where our effort, our decision, our determination has something to do with our Christian experience.

I'm just gonna ask, if you would, to walk with me through a small handful of texts that have to do with our decisions, our determination, what we decide to do. I'd like to start over in the book of Romans. Romans 14. In this rather lengthy paragraph where Paul is dealing with the relationships that exist between brothers and sisters in Christ, he has this statement that he makes in Verse 19. Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

One of the things that you and I decide at some point in our life is that we will make every effort to protect God's church. That somehow we have a responsibility to protect the body. That our determinations, our decisions, our choices affect what we're like as a collective group. Paul's issue was food. Particularly, it was food that was sacrificed to idols and the question was, is it okay for some people to eat that food? And the bottom line question wasn't food. The bottom line question was relationships. How seriously do we take the relationship that we have with one another? How much, literally, of a consumer am I going to be? Is church about me or is church about something bigger than me?

I ran across this article--maybe you saw it--if you read the Lookout Magazine. This came out a couple of weeks ago, December 14th, it's an edition about how to make disciples. Which is what we are trying to do around here, make disciples. It's the story of Wayne. I wish you could see Wayne. If you can't it's my fault. We could have copied this and I could have showed it to you bigger. Wayne doesn't look like any of you in here today. Um, well, at least not that I've spotted yet. But, this is a true story about a church. Ah, let me just read a segment or two.

Wayne was a bit different from the average member of our church, most of whom were well bred, well fed, well groomed and well ensconced in tradition. This eager disciple had a history of drug abuse. His long hair and his tattoos didn't give me warm fuzzes at our first meeting, but when he showed a genuine interest in the message of the cross, I began to see more of him than was on the surface. Wayne became a Christian. The preacher goes on to say, Within three months, Wayne had won more people to Christ than anyone in the history of that fellowship, including all of the staff who had ever ministered there. All baptismal, attendance and offering records were broken, week after week. Wayne was the primary catalyst. His desire for drugs and alcohol was transformed into a commitment to share the same good news that had rescued him from his own slow death. Wayne's new church family had a reputation for being evangelistic. They had supported a full time missionary for years in a far away African country. But people of color and drug addicts this close to home were a different matter. Although Wayne had been a member of the church for eight months, no one except the minister had invited him and his family into their home. And after eight months of Wayne, the Elders called me into their office and gave me my pink slip with the blessed words, Please don't take this personally, but we need to make some changes. Things are moving in a direction that trouble us. We hope you understand.

Christians are called by God to share their faith with others. The church cannot settle for holding services and going through the motions. Jesus didn't die to establish institutions that merely keep house and make budgets. There is, in our culture, a consumer mentality. It's everywhere. You go to the restaurant, you go as a consumer. You want to be served. You want things done your way. In fact, if you pay any attention to advertising, that's exactly how they advertise it. You can have it YOUR way!

And if you're like me and I don't think you're so radically different from me, if you visit a church you tend to look at a church with consumer eyes and ask, WHAT DID THAT DO FOR ME? HOW DID THAT HELP ME? DID I LIKE THAT? I don't suppose there's anything inherently wrong with that kind of desire to have things our way until it comes into conflict with what the church is supposed to be doing, which is reaching out to a lost and dying world. It is not about meeting my personal needs. There are some things, I am quite convinced, that are worth fighting for. No doubt about that. There are some things that must be protected.

Paul says here, it's okay, just don't bother to eat meat.

On another occasion, when he's in conflict with Peter over sitting and eating with Gentiles, Paul took him to task. The language of the text is very strong--in your face, nose-to-nose kind of confrontation. Peter, you are wrong!

I suppose if this was about, what do we believe about Jesus. That would be worth fighting over. How does a person become a Christian? Now that's worth doing some face-to-face battle over. The privilege of every Christian being a minister, now that's worth going to the mat. But, you know what we usually get in to?

How about this one? The first church I served in, a woman was not allowed to lead singing because that was leading men. Oh, she could play the piano and lead from there, but she couldn't stand up here and lead. Or, the church that I've mentioned to you before that now has in their church bylaws, voted into place, put in print black and white, NO DESSERT DURING LENT, because our previous preacher didn't like dessert during lent, in spite of the fact that he'd been gone for four years.

The call of this text and the call that I am making to you as brothers and sisters, is a decision, a determination that says, WE WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO PROTECT THIS BODY FROM THAT KIND OF JUNK. That we will, in fact, fight for what's right. But, we're not gonna get entrapped by a consumer mentality that asks the question: How does this somehow satisfy me? There are just too many Wayne's in the world to get too worried about that.

Well, I ran across another text that uses this same kind of language over in the book of Luke. Actually, it's the words of Jesus in Luke 13. Luke 13:22

Then Jesus went through the towns and the villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"

He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.'

"But he will answer, ‘I don't know you or where you come from.'

"Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'

"But he will reply, ‘I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'

"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

I think what Jesus is saying is that we make every effort to assure our salvation. And herein is a very fine line and I find myself feeling like I'm walking a tightrope when I talk to you about this issue because you know and I know our life experience and our biblical education is salvation is by grace. It isn't what we do. It's what God has done in Christ and our salvation is purely a gift from God. And yet you heard him didn't you? Make every effort to enter in. There is something we do. We do play a part in this salvation process. There are responsibilities that we carry that impact whether or not we experience a relationship with Jesus. There's something beyond just his offer and that is that the offer has to be accepted. He can say it's yours--take it, it's all yours but you have to, at some point, say, (and these are my favorite words) I'M READY!

The preacher that I listened to most the last fifteen years before I started preaching here said his three favorite words are, keep your fork. My two favorite words are I'M READY. I love it when somebody comes and says I'M READY. I know what I need to do--I'M READY. That does not negate grace. That, in no way, takes over God's part of this. And yet you know, don't you, biblically? The question comes up in Scripture, What must I do to be saved? There is a part of human response here. Some of you know what you need to do. My question is,

Why haven't you done it? What needs left to be said to you? How hard do we have to try to twist your arm? Would it help if every Sunday we got down on our knees and begged you, because if that's what it will take, you just say the word. I will be glad to be on my knees before you begging you to do what you already know you need to do. Because one day the owner of the house closes the door.

I occasionally lose sleep over two old men. One was 88, the other 84. They attended Bethany Christian church outside of Brownstown, Illinois. Both of them had been attending there for over thirty years and for whatever reason, they had heard the gospel over and over and over and over. But when it came time to talk down the steps into the water to seal their relationship with Jesus, they couldn't bring themselves to make that one last step. And I did--in the company of an elder of that church, got down on my knees, in front of their rockers and begged them. And to my knowledge they have faced eternity, disobedient to scripture. What are you waiting for? What more does God need to do to convince you that there are some things that you need to do to assure your salvation before him. It doesn't negate his grace, it doesn't turn into work salvation. It simply is your human response to God's divine offer. The text says, Make every effort to enter in.

The other place that I want to turn is to 2Peter. It's a text you've heard me read before so it won't be of any surprise to you. 2Peter 1 This apostle of Jesus makes this comment in 2Peter 1 in light of the great and precious promises he says in Verse 5.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter's list of characteristics are to be pursued with eagerness and with zeal. We make every effort to deepen our relationship with Christ, to become more like Him. Our vision as a congregation is very simple. We will be a community of faith where every member looks like Jesus. But that, in part, has to do with us adding these virtues to our lives by making every effort on our part to do that. Or I understand that they are the fruit of God's spirit working within us, but you have to make room for that to happen. You have to work at adding these values, these virtues to your life. Make every effort and he says, as these things increase in measure. The assumption is that you will grow in his grace. That you will grow in knowledge. That you will be different today than you were yesterday. That the end of 2004 you will be different than you were at the end of 2003. It ought to be possible today for you to stand up in church and to offer this testimony. This is what I was like this Sunday last year, but this is how I am now because you have made every effort.

I come back to the lyrics. I will. I will. It's an act of intention. It's an act of decision because our decisions matter. Have you listened to the words of Jesus. Buried over here in Hebrews 10, look at Hebrews 10. In quoting from the Old Testament, but placed in the mouth of Jesus, according to verse 5. In Hebrews 10:7 it says, Then I said, ‘Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--I have come to do your will, O God'" Then in verse 9 he says, . . ."Here I am, I have come to do your will." If the vision of this place is that we will all be like Jesus, then at some point you and me, we both, have to make this decision that I have come to do your will. That's what Jesus was like. He was a man determined to do the will of the Father.

Probably the place that it is most obvious is Matthew 26, or at least this is Matthew's version of this event. You know the place, the garden of Gethsemane

when Jesus wrestles with everything that has been going on in his entire existence from all of eternity. He's gone to garden on the night of his betrayal. He's asked his disciples to pray and in Verse 39 of Matthew Chapter 26. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

I want you to notice the sudden shift that occurs in Jesus prayer, because after he comes back and talks to the disciples, he goes back again. In verse 42: . . .a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." Do you hear the difference? One little word-- not. Somewhere in his heart and in his mind he understood there is no other way. I'll still do it. I'll still do it. That's the decision. Whatever way it is, that's the way I'll go. Whatever it takes to be the kind of person God is calling to me to be, I will make every effort to be that person.

The offer the church makes to you is very simple. We will do everything we can to make that possible. We will, as best as we are able, offer you every opportunity to come to a growing relationship with Jesus and to pursue that in as many different avenues that are available. We will make sure that unless, there is some very profound reason why it cannot happen, this building will be open every Sunday morning where you have an opportunity to come in here and to worship and to pursue a relationship with God. And we will continue to offer, Sunday after Sunday, adult discipleship classes where you can come in and on a more personal basis get acquainted with one another and get down into Scripture and to let somebody who hopefully knows more than you or as much as you try to impart to you the Scriptures to help you know him better.

Our women will continue to offer weekly Bible studies so that you ladies can come and participate in a smaller level, more intensely, looking at the Bible, trying to ask, what is Jesus like and what's the life of Jesus like for me?

We'll continue to offer you as many Wednesday's as possible, some kind of a Bible study where you can come in and hear Scripture exposed to you so that you can come more close, in a relationship with Jesus.

We will continue to have Saturday Bible study and Wednesday prayer breakfasts where the name of Jesus will be elevated and his life will be portrayed.

We will continue to have special studies on Saturdays and Sundays so that you have an opportunity to grow. We will do everything in our power to try to help you grow. But you know as well as I do, those studies are meaningless if you're not there.

We can offer instruction in a relationship with Jesus twenty-four hours a day and it would be absolutely worthless without your decision to participate. We're gonna do everything we know how to do, including beginning next Sunday with a walk through the book of Titus to try to talk about what it means to live the Christ-like life right now in this world, the way it is, here and now.

But it's going to be absolutely useless in the shaping of your life if you don't take advantage of it. And I still don't know if I have convinced you that our decisions matter, that your choices make a difference.

Well, I don't know what else to say and I have ranted and raved long enough. But if it will help, I will come look you straight in the eye and beg you one more time. Would you please invest yourself in becoming like Jesus. Because this world needs people who are like Jesus. And I can guarantee you the folks out there who didn't bother to go to worship this morning, there not the ones that we want them modeling their life after. You're the ones we want people to see. People like you, who are making every effort in your life to model what it means to be a godly person, who are doing everything in your power to assure yourself of a relationship with him that has eternal value. That are making every effort to protect the body from foolishness and to only pursue the things that really matter. I'm kinda at a loss of what else to say. I'll just give you one brief word. You've heard me say it before. I'm gonna say it again. I have looked at all the other places there are to look and none of them are worth pursuing. The words of Peter still ring true--Lord, to whom would we go--you have the words of life.

So will you decide to get involved? Will you make the decision I ask to you make three or four weeks ago, that starting the first of the year, you'll at least give a Bible study a month. That you will get involved in a bridge community group for at least a month just to see if it doesn't make a difference? Will you commit yourself to make every effort to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? Will Jesus become your passion this year? It's entirely up to you.

Let's stand.