The Life You Were Meant to Live part 3
Living a Life that Matters
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 5, 2008



He was gone and nobody seemed to care. Oh, they cared that his lawn wasn’t being mowed and that weeds were overtaking his yard. But eventually his neighbours took care of that. They’d come over, mow the lawn, and then go back home. They cared about the lawn, but they didn’t care about Adolph Stec. Who could with a name like that?

Oh, and they cared that his bills weren’t being paid. So one by one his utilities were shut off. His electricity, his gas, his water… all disconnected. They cared that the bills weren’t being paid but they didn’t seem to care that he was gone.

Of course, they certainly cared when he fell behind on his mortgage payments. In fact, the house was seized and sold at auction. They cared about the mortgage, but they didn’t care about poor old Adolph.

Nobody cared… until after four years someone finally entered the house and discovered the mummified remains of the old man… sitting in his recliner… the newspaper beside him indicating that he had been dead for four years.

Adolph Stec had lived for 90 years, and then he had died, and nobody seemed to care.

How would you like for that to describe your life? Yeah, that’s what I thought. We all want to live lives that matter. We want to be missed when we’re gone. We want to leave our mark on this world.

This past Friday morning at Beulah Camp, I headed to the rooms office for my shift. That’s the job that I’m assigned while I’m there. Every pastor is assigned a job and I rent out rooms in the dorms. Well, Friday morning, I was heading to the rooms office, and as I approached the building, I noticed a board laying on the deck with a short piece of two by four sitting next to it.

Well, I assumed somebody must be building something, so I stepped around it… And right into the wet paint! There was no sign… just that board laying across the deck that somehow was to tell me, “Walk on me.” Well, I wasn’t the only one who did that, and it wasn’t long before there were three “Wet Paint” signs out there.

I told someone afterward that I always wanted to leave an impression, and now I had. I just didn’t know it would be an impression of a footprint in wet paint. But, you take what you can…


Over the past couple of weeks here at Sunrise, we’ve been talking about Living the Life You Were Meant to Live. And you know what? You were meant to live a life that matters. You were meant to live your life in such a way that, when you’re gone, people will notice. It’s not going to take four years for your mummified body to be found; you will be missed immediately. You were meant to make an impression.

So as I was thinking about that this week, I asked myself, “What does it really mean to live a life that matters? How do I do that? Is there a prescription for something like that? Is there some advice I can give to help others live a life that matters?”


How do you live a life that matters?

Well, let me ask you this: Who, in all of history, has made the biggest mark? Who has made the greatest difference?

I think the answer is clear… Jesus Christ. First of all, there’s the whole salvation feat that He pulls off in the life of everyone who calls on Him.

Romans 10:13 (NLT)
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You want to talk about making a difference? That’s the greatest difference of all. It doesn’t get any better than that. Taking us from death to life, from darkness to light, from endless despair to everlasting hope. That’s what Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection, as we talked about earlier.

But even beyond that… even beyond the gift of salvation that Jesus offers… nobody else in all of history even comes close to accomplishing what Jesus did in just three short years, or what his followers have accomplished since.

Sure, through the centuries there have been atrocities committed by those claiming to follow Jesus. And the militant atheists today are quick to point them out. But a simple examination of the motives and the methods of the people behind those atrocities clearly reveals that they weren’t Christ-followers at all, regardless of what they claim. Or at least they were severely misled.

And on the other side, consider all of the good that has been initiated and accomplished by followers of Jesus… you have our educational systems begun by Christ-followers to educate children who were forced to work during the industrial revolution, you have the great Universities… Harvard and Yale, started by the Puritans… Princeton, originally a Presbyterian college… Cambridge, started in 1209 by Christians… Saint Andrews in Scotland, started as a school of theology… The University of Edinburgh was evangelical… Oxford was established by a variety of religious orders… and the very first institute of higher education was started by a Celtic preacher named Illtud around 500 A.D.

Or how about how Christ-followers led the way in the fight for equal rights for women. Our own denomination was heavily involved in that. The Wesleyan Church was also committed to ending slavery here in North America and participated in the Underground Railroad. Abraham Lincoln was guided by his Christian convictions and was often found on his knees in prayer. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist preacher. William Wilberforce, another Christ-follower, was a British parliamentarian who led the decades-long fight that put an end to the slave trade throughout the British Empire. Going back into Roman times, slavery was essentially ended in the Roman Empire because of Christ-followers.

Or how about the humanitarian contributions of Christ-followers? Just about every major humanitarian organization in the world was started by Churches or by Christ-followers. Christ-followers are often the first on the scene after a disaster, and they give the most to provide aid and relief. Just think about Hurricane Katrina that devastated Louisiana and Mississippi. A lot of press focused on how the Houston Astrodome housed 18,000 people after that disaster. But the untold story was that 150,000 were being cared for by the churches in Houston.

The Red Cross had 18,000 volunteers working on the relief effort, but the Southern Baptists alone had 30,000. That’s just one denomination. Throw in the Wesleyans and Methodists, and Pentecostals, and Catholics, and Nazarenes and whatever else, and you’re well into the hundreds of thousands.
[Katrina statistics found at PurposeDriven.com]

And that’s not a recent thing. Christ-followers have a history of being the first and best responders to disasters. Like when a plague would hit a society. The rich would be heading to hills to their country estates hoping to avoid any danger themselves, but the Christ-followers headed straight to where the victims were to care for them, often at the expense of the own lives. And it’s been documented that because of their compassion at times like that, they increased the survival rate by as must as two-thirds.

Then you’ve got all the orphanages started and operated by Christ-followers. You’ve got the way that they’ve cared for widows… all kinds of humanitarian concerns answered by Christ-followers.

And if you want to look at some other benefits, how about scientific discoveries… exploring God’s Creation? Christ-followers have witnessed the beauty of God’s Creation and have strived to learn more and more about it. I’ve been reading a book I got out of the library called “The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success”, and it documents how Christ-followers and Christian values have been responsible for the rapid growth and progress of Western Society.

And then there’s exploration. Marco Polo, David Livingstone, Christopher Columbus, James Cook… all explorers guided by their faith. Plus, untold numbers of missionaries trekking into the most remote parts of our planet to spread the message about the good news of Jesus.

Plus there are the contributions Christ-followers have made toward ethics and morality, and the many many contributions to the arts… sculptures, paintings, music, drama…

The greatest differences in all of history have been accomplished by Jesus Christ and His followers.

So, let’s get back to the question… what do you do if you want to make a difference? How do you live a life that matters?

I think the answer is obvious. As simplistic as it sounds, the best way to live a life that matters is to…

Follow Jesus.

If you want to live a life that matters you need to follow Jesus. Okay, fine, but what does that mean? Well, ultimately, it means something different for each person. What God leads me to do is not necessarily what He’ll lead you to do. What he leads you to do may be different that what He leads the person in front of you or behind you to do. The act of following Jesus will be different for each and every one of us, but the key is that we are… following Jesus. Wherever He leads, He’s our leader and we are following Him.

That’s got to be true for us as a Church, and it’s got to be true for each one of us individually, too.

So while I can’t specifically tell you that if you want to follow Jesus you need to… become a missionary to Mozambique, or get involved in a prison ministry, or sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, or serve at the Soup Kitchen every Friday night… While I can’t give you specifics like that, what I can do is describe in more general terms what it means to follow Jesus. So let’s give that a shot… In your notes…


Following Jesus Means You Will…

1.    Set aside your own agenda in favour of His agenda.

God does have a plan for your life. I have no doubt about that. He has some remarkable things for you to experience and to accomplish as His follower. But in order for that to happen, it means that whatever plans or goals or dreams that you may have had for yourself needs to be set aside so that you can give yourself wholly to God’s agenda for you.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

God has plans for you, and they’re good plans. You can trust Him. So even when you feel like, “Well this looks interesting, I could do this instead, God won’t really mind, I can follow Him later…” Whenever you start to think like that, remember that His plans are better. Jesus Himself said that the reason He came was so that we could have a full and abundant life. He wants that for us. But in order to experience that, it means you must set aside your own agenda in favour of His. As Jesus said…

Jesus, in Mark 8:34-35 (NLT)
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.”

Jesus says, “Trust me. Follow my instructions. Give me your all. Don’t hold anything back and don’t settle for anything less. Place your life in my hands and you will find true life.”

If you’re going to follow Jesus, it means you’re going to give Him your all. You’re not going to try to follow Him while pursuing your own agenda; there’s just His agenda and that’s it.


Number 2. If you’re going to follow Jesus it means you’re going to…

2.    Trust His leadership regardless of the cost.

Because there will be costs. There will be times you’ll be tempted to give up and throw in the towel. But if you’re really going to follow Jesus, you’re going to trust Him even through those rough times.

Luke 14:26-27, 33 (NLT)
“If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me.”…
So no one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me.”

There will costs if you’re going to follow Jesus. But that’s what it takes to be His disciple. And understand, those aren’t just words. For many believers, following Jesus has cost them big time. Just in the past 100 years, 35 million followers of Jesus have been martyred.

Some of you watched 60 minutes last Sunday. I had recommended that you watch it if you could. So if you saw it, you heard about the Christ-followers in Iraq that risk their lives when they worship Jesus. Churches have been bombed, Christ-followers have been executed… just a few months ago one of the bishops in Iraq was kidnapped and assassinated.

These Christ-followers would greatly increase their life-expectancy if they would just stop worshipping. If they would just renounce Jesus. If they would just turn their backs on Him. But they’ve counted the cost… the realize the risks… but they have discovered true life in the person of Jesus Christ and that is worth even giving up their lives.

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego came face to face with this same dilemma. They could worship their God and possibly lose their lives because if it, or they obey an order from the king to worship a golden statue of himself.

And what did they choose? They told the king…

Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT)
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

They knew what was at stake, they counted the cost, and they were willing to pay the price.

Being a disciple… being a follower of Jesus… will cost you something. I don’t know what. I don’t know how much. But it will cost. I believe that what you get in return far outweighs anything it could ever cost you, but it will cost you.


Number 3. If you’re going to follow Jesus, it means you will…

3.    Hold loosely to your possessions, positions and powers.

The stuff you’ve got now… you might not have it long. Someone who chooses to follow Jesus knows that everything they have, they don’t really have. It’s not theirs, it’s God’s. So if a Christ-follower is led by Christ to give to a certain ministry, they give without reservation. If Jesus leads them to resign from a job or position they hold, they do so without hesitation. If it means they trade in power and authority for humiliation and mocking, they do so willingly. Because they’re holding loosely to their possessions, positions, and powers.

Think about those first disciples of Jesus. Who were they? What did they have? Well, several of them were fishermen. They had boats, they had nets… and that was their livelihood. It was all they had ever done; it was all they knew. If I were them, I probably would have been a little more hesitant to leave all that behind all in order to follow Jesus. But look what they did at their very first reaction when they encountered Jesus and He called them to follow Him…

Matthew 4:19-20 (NLT)
Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples…" And they left their nets at once and went with him.

They willingly and immediately left everything they ever had and everything they had ever known in order to follow Jesus. What did that mean? Well, it meant that some nights they didn’t know where they were going to sleep. It meant that there was a block of religious power brokers who had it in for them. It meant that they had to leave the comfort and security of the job they had come to master. But that was fine, because they were holding loosely to those things.

Steve Camp is a Christian singer who I’ve listened to for years, and in one of his songs he just starts talking and he says…

“There’s safety in complacency, but God is calling us out of our comfort zone to a life of complete surrender to the Cross. To live dangerously is not to live recklessly, but righteously. It is because of God’s radical grace for us that we can risk living a life of radical obedience to him.”
~ Steve Camp, in “Living Dangerously in the Hands of God”

I don’t know if you’ve ever really noticed what it says at the bottom of this banner behind me, but here’s what it says…

“Raising Up Radical Followers of Jesus.”

This is the kind of stuff we’re talking about. Giving up your all for Jesus is a radical thing. It’s certainly not an easy thing. And a lot of people would think you’re nuts for doing it. But that’s the kind of follower Jesus wants. That’s the kind of disciple Jesus wants. One who’s ready and willing to live radically for Him.



You know, the prospect of dying for my faith is scary. I don’t like that thought. And at the same time, there’s something oddly glamorous about it. But the toughest thing is not dying for Jesus… it’s living for Him. Dying for Him is an instant; living for Him is a lifetime. Day in, day out. Every day. 24/7.

But if you’re going to follow Jesus, that’s what He’s looking for. That’s what He expects. 100% commitment.

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT)
The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

We’re going to end this morning with a video. I’ve shown you this video once before, but it’s such a powerful clip I want to show it to you again. It’s from the movie “Facing the Giants” and it shows you what it means to give your all…

SHOW VIDEO – Wholeheartedly (SermonSpice)

Jesus is not looking for lip service from you. He’s not looking for admirers. He’s looking for fully devoted followers. What are you?


 

 

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