Whats Holding You Back?
For the last several years the Ohio State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have utilized a phrase to encourage people to wear their seatbelts. We've probably all heard it: Whats Holding You Back?
While they are referring to being held back by a seatbelt so that you don't go flying through the window if you are in an accident, I would like to pose the same question with a little bit of a different spin.
As we face this New Year that we are now in I wonder what will hold you back from being the person God intended you to be. Instead of being held back by a seatbelt that may save your life, there are things that hold us back that impede our ability to answer Gods call in our life.
For a few moments today I would like to consider three areas of our lives that may very well cause us to settle for second best instead of Gods will.
1. Life of sin? (sin in your life)
Sin is not your friend. One of the greatest detriments to a close walk with God is allowing some sin to live and run your life. Sin will burn you and leave you for dead.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 NLT
In this New Year why not overcome the sin that trips you up? Why not see it for what it is and what it is doing to your life and if you are a professing Christfollower what it is doing to your witness for Christ.
I am declaring war on some things and one of them is fighting with everything I have an d am as a person until some of you get it; you cant serve God with one foot in the church and the other foot in this world trying to fit in and hold hands with it as you walk down life's pathway. Either get in and follow God or quit playing church/Christian and trying to salve your conscious by showing up and putting in time.
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time playing cowboys and Indians and in those days during the Vietnam War we played army a lot. We had great imaginations and made weapons out of almost anything. There comes a time when you have to quit role playing and become a real person yet I see adults all the time playing like they are Christfollowers yet its not real. Run from sin. Run from whatever it is that is controlling your life other than God!
The answer for a problem with sin is very simple:
The Answer: Love God exclusively
2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:2 NLT
Could it be that there is some sin in your life that is holding you back from becoming everything that God wants you to be? Get your eyes on Jesus and keep them there.
2. Love of safety?
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.
6 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. 7 Then I said, Look, I have come. As is written about me in the Scriptures: 8 I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart. Psalm 40:5-8 NLT
A few years ago, Mark Buchanan wrote a book entitled, Your God is Too Safe. Buchannan believes that evangelicals have constructed a God of their own making: a God who is too safe. He is a loving God, but a God who is entirely predictable. But the truth is, this God bears little resemblance to the God of Scripture a God who is entirely unpredictable.
We dislike God as He really is, and so we run away from Him like Jonah or hide from Him like Adam. Or we reinvent Him to fit our lifestyle instead of basing our idea of Gods character on the Bible.
The primary reason is bad theology: a steady traffic of invented or distorted ideas about God. The fact is God isn't nice, and He isn't safe. God is a consuming fire. Though he cares about the sparrow, the embodiment of His care is rarely doting or pampering. Gods main business is not ensuring that you and I get parking spaces close to the mall entrance [this was written pre-Osteen too!] or that the bed sheets in the color we want are a miracle! On sale this week.
His main business is making you and me holy. And for those of us who love borderland living more than holy ground, whose hearts are more slow than burning, that always requires both the kindness and the sternness of our God.
In this new year, why not discover who God truly is and who He wants to be in your life. Stay away from the preppy sweater tied around His neck god or the sandal wearing peaceful hippy god that some of you envision from the New Testament and discover a God who calls you to extend yourself into the dangerous and the unpredictable.
The Answer: Live on the edge
I am not suggesting that you live on the edge between what is right or wrong but that we should be living on the edge of Gods will. Its a place where we realize that we cannot do it on our own. We will never understand God until we live our lives in such a way that we are dependent on Him. To do that you have to understand who God is.
Bette Midler topped the music charts years ago with a song about Gods watchful care. It was entitled, From a Distance. Her voice went from cocktail lounge croon to barroom belt, God is watching us. I believe the songs popularity was based on something other than the music. It expressed a deep and culture-wide theological sentiment: We want a god who provides but doesn't, who protects but never demands, never judges, never meddle. We want a god who keeps his distance and doesn't crowd us. (Buchanan)
Wilber Reese wrote the following years ago:
I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul and disturb my sleep.
Not enough to take control of my life.
I want just enough to equal a cup of warm milk.
Just enough to ease some of the pain from my guilt.
I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.
I would like to find a love that is pocket-sized.
I don't want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
Not enough to change my heart.
I can only stand just enough to take to church when I have time.
Just enough to equal a snooze in the sunshine.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb, but not a new birth.
I would like to purchase a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
If it doesn't work, I would like to get my money back.
I would like to hide some for a rainy day.
Not enough for people to see a change in me.
Not enough to impose any responsibility.
Just enough to make folks think I am ok.
It doesn't require all that much to be a church member. The time commitment isn't too bad; at its worst, were talking about an hour or so on Sunday and maybe one other time during the week. The cost isn't bad either; nobody really knows how much you drop in the plate. Outside of church, all you have to do is avoid doing anything to publicly embarrass the church. Its not a bad hobby.
But what does it take to be a disciple? That's where things get tough, talking about denying ourselves and taking up crosses and being different from the world. That's not really the life that most of us signed up for. Its kind of like signing up for the safety patrol at school and finding yourself a Navy SEAL. We want to be Christians, but do we have to be fanatics about it?
If we want to be the Lords church, we have to be about the Lords business. If we are going to be imitators of Christ, it only makes sense that we are going to try and do the things He did. We will want to talk about the things He talked about and concentrate on the things He concentrated on. We will live in a such a way that we find ourselves on the cutting edge of what God is doing.
Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) That's every day. Not weekly. Not twice a week. Daily.
Its all or nothing. Total commitment. We are His or we aren't. God wants an intimate, daily relationship with us. He compares it again and again to a marriage. He doesn't want to be a part of our lives; He wants to be our lives.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30) Not some. Not part. All.
Not $3.00 worth. Not one day a weeks worth. Not inside the church building worth. God wants all of us, every day. That's what it is to be a disciple. That's what it is to be a Christian.
Someone said that instead of focusing on being the right church, we should focus on being the right kind of Christfollowers.
$3 worth of God? Why don't you super-size that this year?
Could it be that you are being held back by a love for safety and a fear of the unknown.
3. Lack of serving?
If Jesus taught and modeled anything that we should be doing it would be serving others. When you and I live our lives and focus on ourselves we become self-serving. We become stagnant and self-centered which leads to unhealthy behavior on our part.
24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called friends of the people. 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27 NLT
I can assure that within this church you can find a place to serve others. I can assure you that you can find a way to serve others outside the church but either way everyone that is a Christfollower will be a servant to others.
The Answer: Labor to encourage others
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But dont use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. Gal. 5:13-15 NLT
They thought they'd failed miserably. Sixteen Chinese Christians went to a rural area to plant churches but got absolutely no response from the people. They were destitute, living in the forest, scavenging for enough food to keep them alive. Discouraged, they fasted for a week and prayed for God's guidance. When they gathered to discuss what they should do, each person said that God was saying to stay and "wash their feet." For three years, they sat on the side of the road with buckets of water offering to wash the farmer's feet as they were going and coming from the fields. The offer annoyed the farmers who regularly beat the evangelists and poured their water over them. But the Christians didn't give up. Finally, one of the farmers let one of the Christians wash his feet and when he did, the other farmers relented. For three months they washed 1500 farmer's feet, twice a day. Until one of the farmers asked, "Why are you doing this?"Three years and three months after they decided to stay and "wash feet" they finally got to proclaim the gospel. A few weeks later, the gospel had triumphed in the hearts of the farmers and they all placed their faith in Jesus Christ, as did another 50,000 residents of the region within 2 years. The Commission, June 2002, p. 26Let me give you some easy suggestions of ways you can serve others within this church.
1. Find somebody you don't know and talk to them after or before the service starts.
2. Read through the worship folder and think of ways you can serve others (Kid City, Student Ministries, Hospitality, Greeters, Ushers, Community Outreach)
3. Think of the people you work with and think about how you can serve them as a witness for Christ.
The following incident won the runner-up prize in the 1999 Darwin Awards:
A Vermont native, Ronald Demuth, found himself in a difficult position. While touring the Eagles Rock African Safari (Zoo) with a group of thespians from St. Petersburg, Russia, Mr. Demuth went overboard to show them one of Americas many marvels. He demonstrated the effectiveness of "Crazy Glue"... the hard way.
Apparently, Mr. Demuth wanted to demonstrate just how good the adhesive was, so he covered the palms of his hands with the adhesive, and jokingly placed them on the rear end of a passing rhino. The rhino, a resident of the zoo for the past thirteen years, was not initially startled as it has been part of the petting exhibit since its arrival as a baby.
However, once it became aware of its being involuntarily stuck to Mr. Demuth, it began to panic and ran around the petting area wildly making Mr. Demuth an unintended passenger.
"Sally [the rhino] hasn't been feeling well lately. She had been very constipated. We had just given her a laxative and some depressants to relax her bowels, when Mr. Demuth played his juvenile prank," said James Douglass, caretaker. During Sally's tirade two fences were destroyed, a shed wall was gored, and a number of small animals escaped. Also, during the stampede, three pygmy goats and one duck were stomped to death.
As for Demuth, it took a team of medics and zoo caretakers to remove his hands from her buttocks. First, the animal had to be captured and calmed down. However, during this process the laxatives began to take hold and Mr. Demuth was repeatedly showered with over 30 gallons of rhino diarrhea.
"It was tricky. We had to calm her down, while at the same time shield our faces from being pelted with rhino dung. I guess you could say that Mr. Demuth was into it up to his neck. Once she was under control, we had three people with shovels working to keep an air passage open for Mr. Demuth. We were able to tranquilize her and apply a solvent to remove his hands from her rear," said Douglass. "I don't think hell be playing with Crazy Glue for a while."
What in the world was Mr. Demuth thinking? I believe it is safe to say that he wasnt thinking at all!
The bottom line is that when you attach yourself to something powerful and big but not God Himself the results will always be disastrous. Try to remember this as you go through this year. When you ask God to be a shield and a protector and defend things in your life that you should never have been attached to in the first place, you can expect to get dirty.
Love God exclusively
Live on the edge
Labor to encourage others