Community Group Study Notes
- Why is our greatest aim to become like Jesus? How does this happen? How doesn’t this happen?
- What will it look like for you to die to your old self, to die to the world, and to die to what you want? Why is this necessary?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard in Sunday’s message?
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Good morning, everyone. I'm here communicating the message this morning in part because Pastor Jerry is in Israel along with a bunch of folks from The Chapel. They are having the experience of their lifetime. If you ever have an opportunity to go, you need to do that. I say that from my own personal experience. It was my joy to be accompanied by my wife along with a bunch of people from The Chapel to go on that same trip in May of 2014. It was the experience of a lifetime. Now, we went in May of 2014, but we were supposed to go out in March of 2014 but we got stuck at Buffalo International Airport because of a snowstorm in Buffalo in March. Who would ever thought?
We didn't get to go. As I said, we got to go in May. When we supposed to go in March, Pastor Jerry had already asked me to speak to you folks on the Sunday we were supposed to return. I had my message planned and I was going to make at the close a reference to being in Israel. I had a big idea and all I needed to do was adjust it a little bit because we didn't get to go. It sounded like this, "It would be great to walk where Jesus walked. Believe me, it was great to walk where Jesus walked, to actually be in the synagogue in Nazareth and to realize that Jesus had walked on the very same stone I was in. It was great." It would be great to walk where Jesus walked. It would be greater to walk as Jesus walked.
Now, that's an allusion to becoming like Christ. It's not being brilliant on my part, believe me. It's straight out of the pen of the apostle John who wrote these words, "He who says he abides in him ought himself also to walk just as he walked." Other translations, instead of using the word use the word live and the word walk carries with it the conduct of your life. The overall pattern of your life is to walk in the steps of Jesus. That's certainly what we are supposed to be doing, to walk in his steps. Picture a dad and a young son in a snowy field, oh I don't know, in Buffalo in April. The snow is too deep for the son and so the dad shortens his steps and creates, dads, remember doing this? And creates the steps for the son to follow in. All the son does is just follow in his dad's steps. That's exactly the word picture that I think John is using here, that Jesus has laid down some steps for us and we walk in them. In walking in them, we become a little bit more and more like him.
It's a metaphor for wanting to be like Jesus. I would hope that I'm speaking to a bunch of people this morning who want to be like Jesus because it is God's desire for you and he communicates it to us often. For example, Paul wrote in Romans eight, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Here's his purpose, "For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sister." Then John wrote these words, "Do you see what great love the Father has lavished on us? That we should be called children of God and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him. For we shall see him as he is." Then the same book that we are studying in this series, Philippians three, Paul writes, "Who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
It is God's desire that we be like Jesus. In the very passage that we are using for this Leaving the Grave Behind series, Paul writes these words. Now, stay with me because I'm going to use just part of this verse. I'll finish it, I promise. "I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection, and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him." Paul, too, in this series is going to address the desire that God has for our lives, that we become like him. There are actually four statements in that one verse, to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection, to understand what it means to participate in his sufferings, and to become like him. Just like the apostle Paul, who's always going somewhere when he writes, he puts all four of those together. I want to show you that this morning as we move towards the idea of becoming like him.
Here's the first thing I'd like to say to you. I can't be like Jesus if I don't know him. The way that I become like him is to get to know him. The only way to become like him is to know him. Why? Because you and I can not be influenced by someone we don't know. You will never be influenced by Christ to the degree that he wants to influence every area of your life unless you know him. This point talks about the discipleship relationship that Jesus wants to have with us, no different than the rabbi/disciple relation in the first century. You see, a disciple would follow a rabbi to such a degree that it would be his desire to be totally like his rabbi in every way. I mean every way. If this is how my rabbi picks up his fork, then this is how the disciple picks up his fork. Jesus kind of alluded to that in Luke 6:40. The student or the disciple is not above the teacher or the rabbi, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher, like their rabbi. The student, the disciple would study and the disciple would study and observe. The student, the disciple would study and observe so that he could imitate his rabbi, as I said, in every single way.
There were actually two Greek words that were used to describe the process of discipleship. One of them is mimetace from which you might hear the mimic. That's exactly what a disciple was designed to do in this relationship, where he would mimic his rabbi, like I said, in every possible way. The other Greek word was [upo gramos 00:07:27]. You might hear the word grammar there. It literally means to write under. Now, I'm going to find out how old or young some of you are because when I was in second grade, I learned how to write cursive. Some of you might say, "I don't even know what cursive is." Well, it looks like this. Bad memories for anybody? Well, we would be given this sheet of paper where you can see letters and even numbers written.
We would, watch this, write under what was there for us so that my A would like that A. My B would look like that B. Believe me, it doesn't anymore. That was the goal, that I would learn by copying, by imitating, by writing under what's there so that I would write like it. That is a word for discipleship. In fact, it is used in 1 Peter 2:21 where Peter says, "To this you recall because Christ suffered for you, leaving you a upo gramos, an example to write under, that you should follow in his steps." It's the idea of the rabbi setting the steps and the disciple writing underneath so that he would write just like the rabbi, so that he would speak just like his rabbi, so that he would do just like his rabbi.
Now, we today might capture this idea with the words or the acronym that some of you have on a bracelet, WWJD. What would Jesus do? That's exactly what this is, the desire to imitate Jesus so that we look at the scenarios of our life and we ask the question, "Well, what would Jesus do?" Let me tell you something. Imitating Jesus is a great first step, but it can't be the only one. Let me tell you why. You can study and you can observe and you can seek to imitate and you can know everything there is to know about Jesus and not know him. You can attend every single Bible study that we or any church offers, to listen to any and every radio and TV preacher, and know everything there is to know about Jesus so that the category in Jeopardy is Bible or Jesus, you got it made, and not know him.
Here's a great example. Ruth Adams was the head of school at CCA, Christian Central Academy, when I started teaching there in the 80s. She also was the director of our women's ministry up until 2000 when God took her home. She had first had served much of her career as a history teacher in the Buffalo school system. She was an incredible teacher, but she made the claim that she had read every single book of merit written about Abraham Lincoln to the degree that she said she knew Abraham Lincoln better than Mary Todd did, his wife. Now, she may have known a lot about Abraham Lincoln, but considering she was born 81 years after he died, she didn't know him. It was impossible for her to have a relationship. Studying and observing and learning everything you can about Jesus is an important first step, but it can't be the only one. Paul is going to allude to that as he moves us along in this text.
Here's a second thing I want you to see. I can't be like Jesus if I don't do life with him. I'm going to explain what I mean, but I can't be like Jesus if I don't do life with him. Let's go back to the verse and see it one more time. "I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection, and participation in his sufferings." You see these two things, the power of his resurrection and participation in sufferings. Those two are so connected with both of the statements on the outside but also with each other because it is, in fact, in going through the sufferings of this life that we experience his power. When we experience his power in the midst of our suffering, we get to know him to a level that we never would. We also have the opportunity to become like him by sharing life's experiences with Jesus. Intimacy is born out of life together.
Let me use my marriage as an example. Now, I would never hold my marriage out as a perfect example even though I have a perfect wife. Good answer, right? We have a deep bond and intimacy that I knew nothing about 33 years ago last Thursday when I stood in front of Pastor Andrews and was united in marriage to her. I knew nothing about the deep bond that we would now have. That deep bond has been forged by shared experiences, some of them tough and some of them good. I thought this week what a tragedy that couples use the tough things they go through as the means by which to push themselves away from each other so that they wake up one day and say, "I don't even know him anymore. I don't know her anymore," when they were designed to bring each other so close.
I look at some of those experiences that we've gone through, my wife and I, that have been great, our wedding day; the birth of our son, Jonathan; his marriage to his beautiful wife, Gabe; the birth of our granddaughter, our wonderful granddaughter; and the anticipation in just a few weeks of a grandson; going to Paris on our 25th anniversary. Great experiences. I think of also some of those experiences that have been most difficult that we would never want to go through again, the financial difficulties that we struggled with as many young couples do early on in our marriage; the loss of her brother in 1995; the loss of her son in 2011. That's what has brought us together and created this deep bond and those shared experiences together. Our divorce care ministry is like that. A participant, someone who is going through a separation or divorce, comes to divorce care and they are met by a facilitator and a small group discussion and when the participant says, "I've been, right now, experiencing this," the divorce care facilitator can say, "Yeah, I remember when that happened to me." There's an intimacy created.
Every single one of us, looking at our own lives, recognize the truest friendships in all the world that we have are people who have been there with us through the good and especially through the bad. Why would that not be true of Jesus? Intimacy is created when we suffer and we go through difficult times, even as Pastor Jerry was teaching us last week. I go back to 2011 when my wife's son, Mark, passed away. My goodness, there were tears. There were tears that the most difficult times, triggers that would make her weep, but I can tell you, I can promise you something. Jesus met her there and she has such today, seven years later, such an intimacy with Jesus because he met her in her suffering. What a tragedy it would be to go through difficulty and not know Christ more intimately because of them. I can't be like Jesus if I don't know him. I can't be like Jesus if I don't do life with him. I can't know Jesus if I'm not willing to die. I can't be like Jesus if I'm not willing to die.
Maybe it's not been your desire to know Christ to the degree it's the desire of Paul's to know Christ. You're too preoccupied right now with knowing other things. Maybe if you're dead level honest, you would say it's not really been your desire to be like Jesus. You're too preoccupied with being you. Maybe you're too preoccupied being who the world says you ought to be. This is the definition of success in the business world. You're too preoccupied being like that or you're too preoccupied being who the loudest voice in your life says you ought to be. Paul says something different, so let's finish this verse. "I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection, and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."
I began to think, can you imagine if Paul had said, "I want to become like Jesus in his miracle-working ability. I mean, I'd love to be able to stop right now and go to a friend's house who is on his sick bed and use the miracle-working ability of Jesus and raise them up. Guys, if I'm out on the golf course and it begins to pour or we're having a family picnic and it begins to pour, thunder and lightening, I'd love to be able to have the miracle-working power of Jesus that looks up at the sky and says, 'Stop,' and it's sunny again," but he doesn't say that. Maybe Paul could say, "I'd love to be like him in his speaking ability, because didn't Jesus just have the right words to say at the right time all the time? I'd like to be like that," but he doesn't. Maybe Paul would say, "I'd like to be like in some characteristic of Jesus that I admire like his kindness," but he doesn't say that. He says, "I want to be like him in his death."
Now, the word "becoming like" is one word in the Greek language. Some of your translations may actually say conformed. We've already seen that word in Romans eight where he says God says his desire is to conform us to the image of his Son. The word means, becoming like him means to fit into a mold. I begin to recognize right away that it is not God's desire that I make Christ fit my mold, but rather I fit his. That mold is to die. The Christian life is a death in order to experience life. I wanted to be fair to you this morning and began to think hard about what was going through Paul's mind when he said, "I want to be like him in his death." To be fair to the text, all I could come up with is what Paul was thinking about was what he had already written one chapter before for us in Philippians two.
Here's what it looks like, "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very form or nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." When Paul is saying, "I want to become like him in death," he's referring, his mind is going back to the words that he wrote, that Jesus demonstrated his obedience to the Father by a death on a cross. I want to become like that. I want to become like that. If Jesus Christ could be obedient to the point of death, why would my obedience not go that far?
Here it is, folks. You can not know Christ to the degree that he wants you to know him nor experience the life that he has for you until you are willing to die to that which gets in the way. You see what the real issue for all of us is. The thing that is keeping us from knowing Christ to the degree that we could know him is that we're not willing to die to the things that get in the way. That could probably be said about our marriages, that we know that our marriages could be better, different, transformed, but we're not willing to die to the things that get in the way. Maybe our relationship with our kids or our relationship with our parents could be better, different, transformed, but we're not willing to die to that which is getting in the way of that happening.
That's for all of us to decide and evaluate in our own lives regarding our relationship with Christ. Is it entirely possible that the reason why I do not know Christ to the degree that he wants me to know him is becuase I'm not willing to die to the things that are in the way? I'm not going to die the very same kind of death that Jesus did because he died for our sins. We die to sin. He died for the world. We die to the world. It is similar in this way. Christ died as an expression of him yielding his will to his Father, not my will, but yours, and so must we. It is dying to my will and living for his. To what do we actually die? What kind of handles can I give you that will help all of us understand to what do we have to die?
Here's the first. I have to die to the old me. Let me make this as simple as I can, a definition that maybe will help you. The old me is anything in me that is not like Christ. That's the old me. The old Deone, the old your name, is anything in me that is not like Christ. You know, before I came to Christ, I had no desire to know him. Before I came to Christ, I was in bondage to my sin and had no power to escape it. I didn't understand what the resurrection power of Jesus was and how it could liberate me from my sin. Before I came to Christ, I responded to hardships by actually allowing them to push God away from me rather than realize it was the very instrument that God was using to draw me to himself. Paul says that old man died, that old man that exhibited nothing of what it means to be like Christ, it died and it needs to stay dead. Paul makes that clear in Romans 6:6, "For we know that our old self," our old Deone, our old you put your name, "was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin."
Now, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, believe me, but if that old man has been crucified, then it's a corpse. Who keeps a corpse around? I'll tell you who keeps a corpse around, Norman Bates in Psycho. Now, for those of you aren't old enough to remember this Alfred Hitchcock horror movie, he apparently, the storyline goes, kills his mother and then can't deal with the guilt of it and so he props his mother's corpse in a rocking chair, dresses her in her nightgown, puts a wig on the corpse's head, and, if you're close enough, you can hear him having conversations with her and actually taking direction from her. That's a horror movie. For me, for you, to be listening and paying attention and having conversation with this old me that's a corpse, that's a horror movie. Paul wants you to see it that way. That old you that you think is so cute and funny, it's dead. It's a corpse. If you are going to know Christ and if you are going to experience the resurrection power, and if you are going to suffer with him so that you become like him, that has to die.
Secondly, I die to the world. Paul writes these words in Galatians 6:14, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." There's been a death going on here. The world's been crucified to me and I've been crucified to the world. Either way, there's a death. It means that it no longer gets my attention. Have you ever gone to a funeral home and you paid your respects to the person who has passed away? Then we usually say something absolutely silly, "My goodness, he looks so good in there." He's dead. "I don't know how he looks good, but he looks good in there," but when you've said that he looks so good, have you ever gotten a response? Wouldn't you be scared if you did? You don't get a response because he's dead. That's what Paul is saying. The world is dead to you. Don't respond to it. Don't listen to its voice. Don't pay attention to its lure. You're dead to it and you need to die to it.
Why does Paul say this? Because he knows he can not be like Christ if he's too busy trying to be like the world and neither can you, neither can I. I can't be. That's why Paul wrote, and I'll just focus on the first half, Romans 12:2, "Do not conform," you've seen that word already, "to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Literally, don't allow the world to squeeze you into its mold. Why? Because Jesus is trying to squeeze you into his. You can't be squeezed into both molds. You have to make a choice. I have to make a choice. Am I willing to die to the world's voice? Well, how do I recognize it? Do you think God's going to help us there? Of course he will. It sounds like this. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them for everything in the world, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, the pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."
Whatever will make you look good, that's the lust of the flesh, whatever will make you look good, whatever will make you feel good. Yeah, I know I shouldn't be so flattered by their flirtations because I'm married, but it makes me feel good. It makes me look good. Yeah, I know I shouldn't be looking at that site on my computer, but it makes me feel good. This is the world's definition of success and I want to be like that. As long as that has my voice and my ear, my will never become like Christ. I die to the world, as Paul says he did, to say that the world no longer has a grip on me. Does it? Does it still have some grip on you? Paul says you need to die to that.
There's a third thing. I die to what I want. He says it this way in 2 Corinthians five, "And he," that is Christ, "died for all. That those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." Paul said, "Christ died for me and, therefore, I should live for him." How? By dying to me. If I am to live for him, then I must die and no longer live for me. Use this example. In between the time that I was out from underneath my parents' authority and the time that I got married, about two and a half weeks in between, kind of, just messing with you. It's really true. Anyways, the two and a half weeks, I did what I wanted to do. Now, I was a believer so I didn't do bad stuff, but if I wanted to come home from work and get on my bike and ride into the sunset, it's what I did. If I wanted to go away, that's what I did. If I had extra money and if I wanted to spend it on this, that's what I did. I did what I wanted because I had no one telling me otherwise.
On April 12, 1985, that died when I got married. That me became a we. If that me had not become a we, that we would have become a me real quick or else it would have been a miserable we. I understood that when I put this ring on, the me alone stopped. I no longer lived for myself. I actually live for my wife. Well, this is similar in that when I gave my life to Christ, the me died, but it didn't become a we. It's not me and Jesus. That me became a he. He now is Lord of my life and I live for him. The reason that's so important is that because now it is him living through me. Paul said it this way, "I've been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life I now live. In the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."
To understand why it is so necessary that I die to me, what Paul is saying is that the most important question I can be asking right now is this, "How would Jesus live my life were he me?" Dallas Willard's the one who came up with that question. How would Jesus live my life were he me? A person cuts me off on the road, I know what he does. I know what this guy does, but how would Jesus live my life were he me? I'm in a conversation with my wife right now, how would Jesus live my life were he me? To die to myself means I ask that question or one like it that gets me at the same result that Jesus Christ lives through me. The problem is, and we all know what the problem is, is that the reason people do not see Jesus in us is because they see us, but the world doesn't need to see me. There's no attraction to that. The world needs to see Jesus. That's why it's so important that I die, because that's his goal, that people would see Jesus in me. That's why I live, but I don't, and Christ lives through me.
I think that's what Paul meant when he wrote these words in 2 Corinthians, "For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory, displayed in the face of Christ, but we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." Paul is saying that we are the jars of clay and that Christ wants to be seen with us. Do you know how that's possible for Christ to be seen in this jar of clay? To break the jar. Now, all of a sudden, part of that verse that we've been studying makes sense because you recognize exactly why difficulties, sufferings, come into your life, because in the sufferings of life, Christ is trying to break the jar, to let the likeness of Christ shine through you. Instead of letting that jar break, you're making it more resilient.
Maybe you're at the point where I was about 20 years ago when someone had the nerve to speak into my life and say, "You know what issue with your life is? You're not broken. As long as you're not broken, as long as you're not surrendered, as long as you're not saying, 'Not my will, but yours,' as long as you're not willing to let him break the jars of clay that you are, people will never see Jesus in you and that's a shame because that's why you're here." He wants you to die and that's the best news that we have, to die. I have to tell you something. This is not, dying to yourself is not the finish line. It's not for you to say, "I've been serving Jesus for 30 years and I'm going to someday get to the point where I'm willing to die." It's not the endgame. It's the starting point.
If you did not hear that from Lauren and Haley and Lauren, you missed it because baptism signifies it. Buried with Christ in the likeness of his death means that I die. The reason I die is because I have been called to that. This is what Paul is saying. He is saying, "I look back at what Jesus did in obedience to the death of the cross and I want to become like him in his death," but that's not the first time the disciples have heard something like that because Jesus, on a particular day, stood at a particular place and he also said, "I'm going to die," but right away, he follows it up by saying, "So are you." I wish I could take you to that place where Jesus said that because I've been there. I've stood at that place. I can't because I'm here. Someone else can, so watch.
When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, it was the only time in his ministry that he came. It was a long way because he'd come from Bethsaida and, coming from Bethsaida, this would have been about a 16-mile journey here and a 16-mile journey back, about a 32-mile roundtrip journey for Jesus and his disciples. Now, Caesarea Philippi was known as sin city. This would have been, it's a really bad place. This is where the worship of the god Pan would happen. Right behind me, on this side, is the cave where Pan was worshiped and where child sacrifice happened. Then, all along this particular hillside, there are cutouts in the face of the rock cliff here. Those cutouts would hold icons and images of various gods, particularly the god Pan, who was half man, half goat, kind of in the Greek pantheon.
The disciples are all surrounded by all of these various gods and Jesus says and asks them this question when he arrives at Caesarea Philippi, noted in Matthew 16:13, "Who do the people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist. Others say Elijah. Still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." "What about you?" He asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven. I tell you that you are Peter. And on this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Now, what Jesus was saying at that point is he was using this backdrop to help teach his disciples a lesson. He asked, "Who do you say that I am? Do you think that I am like one of these, that I am just another flash in the pan?" Pardon the pun. "If I'm just another flash in the pan as one of these gods?" They said, "No, no. You're the Christ. You're the Messiah. You're the Son of the Living God." He said, "You know, that confession right there is how I'm going to build my church. Not even the gates of Hades," which is exactly what this place was called. This was the place where supposedly the god Baal would come in and out from the netherworld, from the underworld, from Hades itself. Where there was a water fountain in this cave, this was called the gates of Hades.
Jesus said, "Not even the gates of Hades will be able to stand against my church." You see, the kingdom of God is unstoppable because the King has come in the person of Jesus, but the way for this kingdom to be initiated and seen would be something that maybe the disciples weren't ready to hear because the Bible goes on to say in verse 21, "From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and, on the third day, raised to life. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, 'Never, Lord,' he said, 'This shall never happen to you.'
Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. You do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns.' Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it. Whoever loses their life for me will find it.'" You see, here is where Jesus not only began to teach his disciples that he had to suffer and die for the sake of the kingdom of God, for the sake of their redemption, but it was also the place where he introduced to his disciples that they too would have to take up their cross, follow Jesus, and remember where their life is really found in him, regardless of what happened to them in this life.
That was so cool how that worked out. Pastor Jerry said before he left, "If there's going to a place where I'm going to be that could help your message," and I saw that they were going to be in Caesarea Philippi on Friday, knowing what took place there. I thought, "My goodness. That fits." Jesus tells us, his disciples, that he's going to die, just like how Paul talks about how Jesus died on the cross. Then, Jesus says, "You too. It may be a different way, but you are going to keep the church moving by being willing to take up your cross and follow me." Just like Paul says, "I want to become like him in death." I got this insight from my brother Dave, that if you were in the first century to see a person carrying a cross, you knew one thing. They weren't coming back. They were on a death march and they weren't coming back.
Let me say something to get your attention and then apply it. The very best thing I could say to my wife is, "I'm not coming home." What I mean by that is the part of me that drives her crazy because it is so much unlike Christ, that's not coming home. As the Holy Spirit who resides in you begins to speak to your heart, would he identify in you one thing that the people around you would love to know wasn't going home with you today? I'm not saying it's just as easy as standing up and making a commitment, but standing up and making a commitment is a start. What is that for you? Is there something for you? The very best news that you could give someone in your life is that that part of you that is so much unlike Christ is not coming home.
Maybe it's like Lauren, the Lauren in the first service, a senior at Christian Central Academy. She's in my Bible class, a dear, dear sister in the Lord, who admitted that she had now been clean for two years from pornography. Is there anyone who would say, "That's not coming home with me today. That habit of pornography is not coming home"? The thing that is in the way of our marriage, perhaps something else, our marriage isn't what it's supposed to be and I know there's something in me that is helping to create that, that isn't coming home. Maybe it's anger that scares the wits out of your kids and you're willing to stand and say, "That's not coming home with me today." I don't know what it is, but you don't have to worry about standing alone because I already admitted that I'm standing. The reason I'm standing and not sitting is because I'm standing and saying I want there to be a part of my life that doesn't go home with me today. As I said, this doesn't fix everything. There has to be surrender. God is going to be shaping that off of us, but it's a start.
I would wonder: Is there anyone right now who would be willing to say, "There is something in my life." We don't need to know what it is. God does, but, "I'm willing to stand right now before the service is over and I'm willing to confess before God that I don't want that to go home with me." If that's you, I'm asking you to stand right now. Takes some courage, but it's important that you do this. Wow. Dear friends, God wants to do a great work in our hearts. If you are near somebody who has stood up, would you put your hand on their shoulder? They don't have to tell you what it is. We don't care. God does. I want you to begin praying for that person right now and I'm going to close in just a few minutes, but I want there to be a season of prayer. If you're sitting and you're near somebody, you're not near enough to touch them, I want you to pray for them. I see that person standing near me and I'm praying that God would set them free from that which has caused them to stand. Let's pray.
Before I pray, I mentioned in my message that I had actually stood on the very stone where Jesus was in the Nazareth synagogue. It was there that he spoke these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free." Whatever chains have been around you that cause you stand, Jesus has come to set you free. Lord, I pray for my dear brothers and sisters who are standing. Lord, whatever caused them to stand, that you would give them hope that you are incredibly for them. While the enemy is against them, you are still stronger. I pray, Lord, that you would set them free, give them the hope that may have escaped and alluded them that things can be different.
I pray, Lord, for restored hearts, restored relationships. I pray, Lord, for restored marriages, Lord, that whatever has gotten in the way, that your peace would rule instead. Set the captive free. Break the bond of canceled sin, the sin that you died for, and may they experience the resurrection power as they die to you and live for you. Lord, we thank you because we really believe that, in this hour, initiated by young ladies being willing to tell this church that they are all in for Jesus, we too now stand and say so are we. Please, Lord, may you be the victor in our hearts and rule without rival for the glory of God, that we would know you better. We praise you in Christ's name. Everyone in this congregation said amen.