In Mark Buchanan’s book, Your God is too Safe, he tells the following story: “It is a little border town called Busia and it wedges up against the border between Kenya and Uganda. It is a scattering of ramshackle buildings, a nest of narrow, dusty streets. It is a place that is crowded with hawkers and money changers. It is a place of crossing. It is actually, a place of double crossing. You cannot take a car from one country to the other. You have to walk the dusty earth between them. You go through the Uganda customs—a wood hut that splices together two lengths of steel mesh fence crowned with coils of barbed wire. The man in the hut wants to know why you were in his country, why you are leaving it, what you’re taking with you, what you are leaving behind. He frisks you. He’ll take a bribe if you want to avoid all this. Then you step into a brick building with several men who shuffle and stamp papers. You step out of the building, thinking you’ve made, thinking you’re in Kenya.
You’re not. This is a double crossing. Kenya has its own customs office, its own brick building with its own huddle of men shuffling and stamping papers. In between the two brick buildings—the Uganda one, the Kenya one—is a patch of ground. It’s not large: maybe 100 yards wide, 300 yards long. Its borderland, no-man’s land, claimed or defended by neither country. All laws are suspended here. Shoot a man, rob him, beat him. The guard on either side would watch.
There are two borders, then two crossing to make. It is the borderland. It is a strange and frightening place. There are no laws to restrain anyone from doing anything. Stranger still, the place is thronged with people—hawkers, beggars and peddlers. It’s a carnival of the wayward and the waylaid. Why? Why would anyone choose to dwell here?
Why would anyone choose to be stuck?
Borderland is a political and geographical reality. But it’s also a metaphor. Salvation is stepping over the boundary from our old life, the old land: freedom from rule, its laws, it gods. It’s coming home from the far country. But sanctification is the journey into the new land: learning to dwell gladly in the Father’s house.”
Psalm 40 is a working description of what it means to serve God. This Psalm was written by David and is best known for the opening words which give testimony to the amazing and awesome work that can be done by God in a person’s life.
Psalm 40:1-2 states,
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.
Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols. Psalm 40:1-4
“O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand —you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Then I said, “Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalm 40:5--8
Often people will experience a dramatic initial encounter with God. Many times this happens because of something traumatic that is happening in their life. The problem is that becoming a Christ follower is more than asking God into your life. Following Christ is a journey. It is a journey that brings us closer to Him. The true Christ follower will grow closer to God the longer they walk with Him.
Verse four in the Message: “Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God, turn your backs on the worlds “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships;”
This is not a process that you and I can leave to chance. There are steps that can be taken which will enable us to live out His word in His way.
The life of a Christ follower is a journey. We must not settle for borderland living. We can not afford to fail to advance in our walk with God.
Based on the words of David in Psalm 40, I am suggesting six steps that will lead you away from the borderland. Let’s look a little closer at these steps.
1. Get to know what God desires not just what He requires.
“You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings” Psalm 40:6a
God does require a lot of things. His word is full of ways that we should live our lives. When God instituted the laws of sacrifice in the Old Testament it was not about sacrifice per se, it was always about obedience.
We always want to make sacred the non essentials. Sacrifices were the vehicle by which God would test the obedience of Israel to His law. Today people have tried to make sacred the way a service is conducted or the kind of music that is used. How tragic that many well meaning people have stifled and all but shut off the effectiveness of the church on the culture.
God desires obedience rather than sacrifice. It is not about being obsessed with knowing what God wants as much as it is longing to know God.
Each day you and I have the unique opportunity to let God saturate our life. We can spend our day finding ways to bring honor to His name. That’s all God wants and it is what He deserves.
The recent focus on worship has been healthy in some ways and unhealthy in others. Worship is not about music. Music may be one of many vehicles to achieve worship but worship is about living a life that honors God.
If your experience with God has not and is not changing the way you live outside of this room on Sunday morning then there is a problem. You are living in the borderland.
David in Psalm 51, after praying and seeking forgiveness for his sin, writes about God and His desire:
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it. You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God you will not despise.”
There were times in the Old Testament that the word of God would be read to the people. I want to do that for a moment this morning.
Read from Isaiah 1: 11-17
2. Listen with your heart
“Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand.” Psalm 40:6b
Tune into what God is saying. Do whatever it takes to listen and hear God speak into your life. How does He do this?
You and I have been bought with a price. The price was Jesus death and resurrection. He paid for your redemption with His own blood.
This must drive everything we do and become. If you want to work in the church then do it because you love God so much that you can’t help yourself.
Our motivation must be that serving others by serving Him is the most important thing to us because it is important to God.
UCLA sociologist, James Wilson, has observed an interesting fact about city life: The crime rate escalates on those streets where broken windows are not repaired. His study showed that the failure to replace windows makes an announcement to the public by saying the standards have been lowered and authority has been abandoned. Wilson sees such practices of disrepair as an invitation for further crime without the threat of adverse consequences. What is true on the street is also true in our personal lives. If we allow bad habits, inappropriate behavior, or unacceptable practices to go unchecked, we will be inviting further destruction into our lives. When we exercise the discipline needed to stop and change our damaging behavior, we will erect a fence of protection that will prevent further personal erosion.
Live your life in such a way that the message is sent: I belong to God 100%!
3. Pay attention to what God is saying.
Often people are tempted to take their spiritual cues from what everyone else is doing or not doing.
This is one of the most dangerous challenges to Christians today. You and I must not live our lives based on what others are doing. We have the awesome privilege of enjoying a relationship with God and part of that relationship is allowing Him to change and shape our lives.
He wants us to hear what He is saying. He will speak to you if you will listen. He will lead you and guide you and your life. There was a day when there was such a thing as personal convictions. Somewhere in the history of the church we lost the word personal from that phrase and they just became legalistic rules for everyone to follow. In an effort to avoid legalism I am afraid that we have thrown out the concept of personal convictions.
Basically we need to listen to what God is saying about our lives and then live out what He wants us to do. Search His word. Read it and let it affect every area of you life.
What are your personal convictions? Do you have any? Are their some things that you know God wants or doesn’t want you to do or be? Are you searching to know God’s will in your life or do you look around at what others are doing and then live your life based on what others are doing?
There are no short cuts to maturity. It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The development of Christlike character cannot be rushed. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time. When you try to ripen fruit quickly, it loses its flavor. In America, tomatoes are usually picked unripened so they won’t bruise during shipping to the stores. Then, before they are sold, these green tomatoes are sprayed with CO2 gas to turn them red instantly. Gassed tomatoes are edible, but they are no match to the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato that is allowed to mature slowly. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 217.
Gene A. Getz, in his book, The Measure of a Church, asks the question, "What is the measure of maturity in the church?" And he lists what others believe are the measure of maturity:
1. An active church (involving people in meetings and programs)
2. A giving church (supporting the church and efforts financially)
3. A growing church (new people coming and staying)
4. An evangelizing church (leading unbelievers to faith and baptism)
5. A smooth-running church (efficient and orderly)
6. A missionary-minded church (supports missionaries around the world)
7. A Spirit-filled church (enthusiastic, emotional)
8. A big church (large attendance, with many programs)
God used Paul to give us a different measure for maturity of the church. Paul says that the church is mature when it functions like one body, where Jesus Christ is the Head. When a baby is a newborn, you can see in their eyes that they want to reach for a toy, but their hands and arms are not yet able to cooperate. As a baby becomes more mature, their body parts began to do what their "head" wanted them to do. Likewise, when we mature as the church, we individually obey what our "head," Jesus Christ, wants us to do.
The Church is not obedient to a set of rules. We are obedient to the Person of Jesus Christ through a trusting relationship and to the truths He has spoken. And our obedience is not just in our head, but in the way we live and serve one another.
4. Be available.
“Then I said, “Look, I have come....” Psalm 40:7a
This is all God wants from any of us. He simply wants us to be available to do His will on earth. People who live in the borderland never quite get to the place that they can offer themselves to God completely.
All kinds of things stand in the way of them being available to God.
It may be marriage or a relationship.
It may be a job or a career.
It may be a hobby or desire to fill one’s life with entertainment.
It is amazing the way people spend their time. We do all we can to fill our time with stuff. We run here and there.
Moving away from the borderland will cause us to review and redeem what we do with our time.
Isaiah used these same words in Isaiah 6 after encountering God and all His holiness and glory. He heard God ask the question who will go and he said, “Here am I, send me.”
If you want to quit living on the borderland then you must be willing to go where God wants to lead you.
Please know, write it down if you have to, serving God is not a stationary position. It is movement and a journey. Several years ago I mentioned playing basketball at the YMCA and how there used to be a bunch of people in a little room off the basketball court spinning. Now that’s a cool term for riding a stationary bike. I am sure it is beneficial. I am sure it would help me but so far I have resisted their invitations, badgering and put downs because I won’t go in that room.
They just peddle their bikes. They peddle and peddle but I have yet to see them go anywhere. They’ve moved that room now to the front of the building so you have to see them when you go in or they can see you coming between 6 and 6:45.
Some of us in this room peddle but never get anywhere spiritually. You can’t and won’t get anywhere unless you get away from the borderland and connect with God.
Tell Him that you are available. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to do.
In Romans 6, the writer uses the slave illustration and simply says that you used to be a slave to sin but now you are a slave to righteousness.
Let me quote him directly, “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness, leading to holiness.” Rom. 6:19
5. Be confident about your usefulness to God.
“As is written about me in the Scriptures: I take joy in doing your will. . .” Psalm 40:7-8a
David so wanted to be used by God that it was written about him.
What is being written about your life and mine? I want the story of my life to be that I served God aggressively. With passion. On purpose and deliberately.
I want to make choices that reflect my surrender to God.
Every one of us is useful to God. For us to belittle ourselves or say that we are no good for anything is an insult to God.
There is so much unused potential in the body of Christ. I think some people are waiting for their name to be called or a bell to ring. In fact, you have gifts that are critical to God and His usefulness on the earth.
That is your ultimate calling.
Where ever you find yourself on a daily basis you are a minister for God.
We are committed as a church for helping you discover your gifts and talents and empowering you to use them in serving others.
6. Do the will of God with all your heart.
“ . . . for your instructions are written on my heart.” .” Psalm 40:8b
Mark Buchanan again writes, “We feel caught in jobs we barely endure and often despise, in relationships that plunder us and baffle us and deepen rather than remove our aloneness, in activities that are soul wizening in their triviality and yet insatiably addictive. We squander jewels and hoard baubles. We experience harrowing emotions over mere trifles and can barely muster a dull ache over matters of shattering tragedy. We feel we’ve no time and no energy for the things that we know matter deeply, even eternally, but waste much time in silly and stultifying diversions: We are impatient with our child’s longing to spend ten minutes with us at bedtime, but then fritter away an hour in idle telephone chatter or two hours watching the latest studio-produced inanity on video. We gossip, even though we’ve made repeated resolves not to. We envy, resent, judge, avenge sulk and overeat. We feel that everyone else has more money, longer vacations, newer cars, nicer clothe, and fewer things going wrong with their hot water tanks, automobiles, and children than we do.”
To get beyond these feelings of self doubt and pity you and I are going to have to be honest about our lives. We are going to have to see ourselves for what we are and do something about it.
There is a region in Argentina named Tierra del Fuego (land of fire) by Magellan’s explorers, who noticed fires burning on shore. The natives tending the fires, however, paid no attention to the great ships as they sailed through the straits. Later, they explained that they had considered the ships and apparition, so different were they from anything seen before. They lacked the experience, even the imagination, to decode evidence passing right before their eyes.
Are you able to see this today? Can you see what is all around you? What God has surrounded you with? Expand your thinking. Allow God to move you past the borderland.
Do you need to move beyond the borderland in your life?
Have you strayed into an area of complacency and lukewarmness?
Have you lost focus on what is really important?
Are you struggling with something that has sidetracked you until you can’t think of anything else?
Are you stuck? Are you longing to get up and move out from where you have been living your life?
Do you feel like moving away from the borderland?
This is the key to everything I have said today. It is giving God everything. It is saying to Him, “Take my life, take my hands and feet and mouth and let them move at Your impulses God.”
“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” Psalm 40:5-8