Go for the Gold part 2
Skiing: Some Things You Do for Yourself
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 12, 2006

 

Everything you could possibly do to prepare has been done. You’ve dreamed, you’ve sacrificed, you’ve trained. And now, as you stand looking down at the slope, you realize that everything now depends on you. As you were preparing, you had your coach, your trainer and your family supporting you and encouraging you. They were always there for you. But now… now it’s just you. Oh, they’ll be watching along with the entire civilized world. But from here to the finish, you know that you’re on your own and everything depends on you.

Alpine Skiing is one of the foremost events of the winter Olympics and covers a wide variety of sub events… Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G. And what do all these disciplines have in common? Skis, of course. And what is skiing? Well, I like this one definition I came across…

Skiing: the art of catching cold and going broke while rapidly heading nowhere at great personal risk.

All those disciplines of skiing have something else in common, too. They are all solo events. You don’t see four-man skiing or mixed doubles… at least not intentionally. Not at the Olympics, anyway. You might see it in a Bond movie, but that’s about it. And regardless of all the help and encouragement the skier may have had in getting to the Olympics, when they start down the hill they are on their own.

In some ways, the Christian life is like that. I mean, there are several areas where we need each other and we help each other, and we’re going to look at that in a couple weeks. But there are also things that we can only do for ourselves. We may have people cheering us on and encouraging us from the sidelines, but ultimately the things we’re going to talk about this morning are up to us.

So let’s start at the beginning. When we talk about becoming a Christian, we talk about having a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ. What do we mean by “Personal”? Well, one of the definitions given by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is…

Personal: done in person without the intervention of another; proceeding from a single person.

And while there are a great many things about Christianity that involves the Church and other Christians, there are also many of the essentials that are very personal. They involve only two individuals: You and God. They can’t be done by anyone else… they have to be done by you. And so in terms of beginning a Personal Relationship with God, the first thing that we are each responsible for is…

 

We are Personally Responsible for…

1. Our Salvation

Yes, God is the one who delivers salvation, but He has given us the responsibility of coming to Him for it.

Now, very seldom do we come to know Christ without an introduction from somebody. My parents were Christians, my grandparents were Christians, my great-grandparents were Christians. And they all prayed for me as a child to come to know Jesus. And I hope you parents are praying for your kids. But you know what? As much as they wanted me to come to know Jesus, they couldn’t force me. They couldn’t make the choice for me. They couldn’t cover me with their salvation. They could tell me about God’s salvation, they could demonstrate His love, they could pray for me, and they could point me in the right direction, but they could not take that final step for me.

It wasn’t until I personally came to Jesus when I was seven years old that I had a relationship with Jesus, experienced His love and forgiveness, and received eternal life. The point is, it had to be personal. No one else could do it for me. As it says in the Gospel of John… the fourth book of the New Testament…

John 1:12-13 (NIV)
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Parents, this is important. Your children cannot inherit your relationship with God. You should raise them up in the ways of the Lord, teaching them His Word and His values, and you should pray for them fervently to receive Christ and you should explain to them what that means. But you can’t do it for them. It has to be their personal choice. Missionary E. Stanley Jones summed it up this way…

“God doesn’t have any grandchildren.”
~ E. Stanley Jones

Depending on what side of the border you are looking from, Patrick Henry was either an American Patriot during the War of Independence, or he was a traitor to the Crown during the American Rebellion. You may be familiar with him. Well, as his life drew to an end he made this statement…

“I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion.”
~ Patrick Henry

But that was the one thing that he couldn’t do for them. Oh, he could provide a Christian education, he could make sure they were in Church whenever the doors were open, he could have regular family devotions with them… but ultimately they would accept or reject the salvation that God offers all by themselves.

Christianity demands a personal response to the sacrifice of Christ. It’s not enough that we acknowledge that Christ died for the sins of the world if we don’t acknowledge that he died for the sins of Greg, or of Bev, or of Chris, or of Kathy, or of Kim. King David was very aware of that when he wrote… read this with me…

Psalm 51:10-11 (NLT)
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Create in ME… renew in ME… do not banish ME… don’t take from ME. It’s personal.

And so the very beginning of your Christian experience… your very salvation… begins with you calling out to God and asking him to forgive you. And nobody else can do it for you no matter how much they might love you and want to do it for you.


Secondly we are each responsible for…

 

2. Our Obedience

Paul wrote to the Philippians….

Philippians 2:13, 15 (NLT)
For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him…
You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world…

It is true that we are saved by faith and not by works or good deeds. We talked about that last week. You simply cannot earn your way to Heaven. But throughout the Bible, our salvation is linked to obedience. We’re not saved by obedience, but once we’re saved we’d better be obedient. Get it? In your notes…

You can obey the commands of Christ and not be a Christian, but you cannot be a Christian without obeying the commands of Christ.

In the book of 1 Samuel, we read how King Saul was caught in a deliberate act of disobedience to God’s commands. And when he realized that he had been discovered, he told the prophet Samuel that he would offer sacrifices to make up for his actions. Sounds like our thinking sometimes, except instead of offering sacrifices we try to negotiate some other deals. Sort of a “God, I shouldn’t have done that, so here’s how I’m going to make up for it…” But listen to Samuel’s response to Saul… he asks a rhetorical question and then answers it…

1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams.”

In the New Testament, when Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he asked and answered a very similar question…

Romans 6:1-2 (NLT)
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?

Or as Jesus said…

John 14:15 (NLT)
“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

So in both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible tells us that our love for God is demonstrated by our obedience to His commands. If we love Him, we obey Him. Plain and simple. If we don’t obey Him, then we don’t love Him.

Jesus also said this about our obedience…

John 15:10 (NLT)
“When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love.”

Would that also imply then that if you don’t obey Christ, you don’t remain in his love? If so, that is a scary thought.

The bottom line is, there is only one person who will be held responsible for your obedience to God and His Word… you. Oh, you might try to justify or rationalize your disobedience; or you might try to blame others. Kind of like what Adam tried… “It’s Eve’s fault… she gave me the fruit.” Or like Flip Wilson, who’s famous for saying, “The devil made me do it.” You know… “they led me astray” or “they tempted me.” It’s only human, right? It’s easy to try to excuse our behaviour, and everybody seems to have an excuse. As A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, said…

“No doubt Jack the Ripper excused himself on the grounds that it was human nature.”
~ A.A. Milne

So you might try to rationalize or justify or shift the blame. But ultimately, you will be held responsible. Because God is looking for obedience from His people, not excuses. The Bible warns us…

Ephesians 5:6 (NLT)
Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him.

The better choice is to follow this advice from Jesus…

John 13:17 (NLT)
“You know these things—now do them!”


The third thing in the Christian life that we are personally responsible for is…

 

3. Our Attitude

You alone will determine if you are going to be positive or negative. You will choose to go through life demonstrating the joy that Christ gives or grumbling about everything that happens to you. The apostle Paul realized that we each determine our attitudes. When he wrote a letter to the believers in the city of Philippi, he gave them this advice…

Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)
In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.

Philippians 2:18 (NLT)
And you should be happy about this and rejoice with me.

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

As I’ve mentioned to you before, Paul was sitting in a Roman prison when he wrote those words. And remember, Roman prisons often doubled as sewers. Helps put his words in context, doesn’t it? And then who does He say is our ultimate model for our attitude?

Philippians 2:5 (NLT)
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.

The specific attitude Paul was referring to there was one of humility. But I think it’d be wise to apply the attitude of Jesus to our entire lives. Jesus didn’t gripe and complain about every little thing. He didn’t rip into people because He had a bad day. He didn’t always assume the worst in people. No, in everything He did He conveyed hope and compassion. Your attitude should be the same as His.

In a way, our attitude and our obedience are similar. Because just like we try to excuse our disobedience, we also try to excuse our poor attitudes. We claim, “I’m just having a bad day,” or “I’m just tired,” or whatever. But excuses are just that… excuses. Your responsibility is not to come up with excuses… your responsibility is not to need them. It was Lord Jeffrey who said…

“The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.”
~ Lord Jeffrey

Hey, we all know people who have it better than us who can’t say a good word about anything or anyone, and we all know people who have it a lot worse than us who are always looking on the bright side. Our circumstances do not determine our attitudes. We do. Recognize that and take responsibility for it.

Listen, if your negative attitudes affected only you, that would be bad enough. But the problem is, that grumbling and complaining are poisons that not only affect the person who is doing the grumbling and complaining but also affects the people around them. That’s why Paul was telling people to stop it… because he knew that ultimately it would have a negative effect on the entire Church.

Galatians 5:9 (NLT)
But it takes only one wrong person among you to infect all the others—a little yeast spreads quickly through the whole batch of dough!

And throughout the Bible, we see negative attitudes condemned.

Now, this past Monday, we got a new Prime Minister, who is also the leader of what is now the Conservative Party of Canada. I read that back a couple decades ago, John Crosby ran for the leadership of what was then the Progressive Conservative Party. And during that time, he spoke of some doomsayers within the Party, and he referred to them as “Nattering Nabobs of Negativity.” Same way Spiro Agnew once referred to the press corps. That’s what you don’t want to be. Don’t be a nattering nabob of negativity.

You know, the Bible actually has a lot to say about our attitudes. Check out these verses…

1 Corinthians 10:10 (NLT)
And don’t grumble as some of them did, for that is why God sent his angel of death to destroy them.

James 5:9 (NLT)
Don’t grumble about each other, my brothers and sisters, or God will judge you.

Deuteronomy 1:34 (NLT)
“When the LORD heard your complaining, he became very angry.”

Numbers 11:1 (NLT)
The people soon began to complain to the LORD about their hardships; and when the LORD heard them, his anger blazed against them.

On the other hand, we are told things like…

1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT)
Always be joyful.

James 1:2 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.

1 Peter 1:8 (NLT)
Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

Here’s the thing… if you find you have a consistently negative attitude about someone or something, the problem may not be that someone or something. The problem may be you. Because the truth is, we don’t see things the way they are… we see them the way we are.

When I was growing up, there was a cluster of people in my home church that were negative about everything. And they were able to influence others, too. In fact, they successfully forced many people, including pastors, out of the church. I couldn’t tell you how many people turned their backs on God or were never reached in the first place because of them. Now, we all know that that as long as the church is made up of people, it won’t be perfect. Mistakes will happen… poor choices will be made… and when there is a problem we need to correct it. But these people were against anything and everything, and they were constantly telling people of the problems in the church whether they were real or imaginary. Truth is, they may have been happier in another church, though I suspect they would have found something to gripe about there, too.

Now, we don’t have that problem here right now. At least, not that I know of. Let’s keep it that way. You are responsible for your own attitude, so choose to make it a positive one.


The fourth thing that we are responsible for is…

 

4. Our Witness

Which kind of goes without saying because it is the sum total of the other three. What is your witness? It’s the message that your life conveys to those around you. Check out this video…

[Essentials 5-1: Calendar Christians]

Your life message is not displayed only on Sundays… it’s displayed each and every day. What message are you displaying? Consider how Paul said to display your life message…

Philippians 2:15 (NLT)
You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.

Or as Jesus said…

Matthew 5:15-16 (NLT)
“Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

People should know that you are a Christian. It should come through by the way you act and they way you talk. It should be obvious. As a believer, you are an ambassador for Christ, not an undercover agent. And so you need to represent Him in a worthy manner.

Now, why is your witness important? Because it may determine the eternity of those around you. Your life conveys a message. Is it a message of hope? Is it a message of what Christ has done for you? Is it a message that will direct others toward Him?

Or, is it a message that undermines everything Jesus came to accomplish? Is it a message that could forever repel people away from Jesus? Like it was for Mahatma Ghandi, who himself said that if it weren’t for Christians, he would have become a Christian himself. He said he liked Christ; he just didn’t like the Christians he knew. And he summed it all up this way…

“If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
~ Mahatma Ghandi


Some things you need to do alone. And because your salvation is personal and because your obedience is personal and because your attitude is personal, your witness will be personal. Your life needs to reflect Christ. People need to see Jesus in you. Because when you bear the name Christian you accept the responsibility to let your light shine before people and direct them toward Him.


So where are you at? Personally? Are you living in a personal relationship with Christ? Are you living in obedience to His will for your life? Are your attitudes reflecting a joyful spirit? Are you letting your light shine for Him? I can’t answer those for you; you are the only person who can answer them and the only person who can take action to change them. Today it the day of change. Are you ready to turn your life, your habits and your attitudes over to God? It’s up to you.

Let’s pray together. And I’d encourage you to pray, silently right where you are, something like this…

Jesus, I choose to trust you for my salvation. I know I can’t rely on anyone else to make that choice for me. So I make it for myself. Thank you for making your salvation available to me personally.
I also choose to obey you. I don’t want to try to justify or excuse any disobedience any longer. Help me to live in harmony with Your Word.
And as I interact with others, both here at Sunrise and in everyday life, help me to display a positive attitude… one that if full of joy and hope, and not grumbling and slander. May my attitude direct people toward you, not away from you.
And in all things, in every aspect of my life, may you shine through clearly. I do not want to embarrass Your name in any way, so please take me and make me the person you want me to be. I give you permission to do that, starting today.
Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.

 

[Much of the message adapted from material by Denn Guptill.]
 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2006 SunriseOnline.ca