I spoke at UNL’s Campus Crusade meeting a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to post what I talked about, but the time just got away from me. So here it is:
“Life’s too short to just admire”
I watch a lot of HGTV. Maybe it’s because we can’t buy our own house, or we live in a wood paneled basement…I just like to live vicariously through other people buying and decorating their homes. Sometimes James and I watch it just to be amazed at the serious amount of money wasted on a 2nd or 3rd house in the Bahamas. Needless to say, we both get a little fired up during those times.
I’m not sure when it first happened, but we were watching “House Hunters International”—people search in a different country for a home, usually for just a summer home or a vacation home. I am always amazed at how beautiful these places they go to are. Warm weather, beautiful beaches, AMAZING houses. I caught myself thinking, “man, it would be soo nice to live there!” (I spent just a week in San Diego 2 summers ago, and I’m now addicted to the beach). Right after that thought entered my mind, it was as if the Lord spoke directly to my heart. This is, in a paraphrase, what he said. “If there can be something that amazing and beautiful on this earth, just imagine what I’ve done in heaven. Live with anticipation of what’s to come. Don’t settle for 2nd best here.” We have heard it so much it’s now almost cliché. We were made for heaven. We are not from this earth. But what about our lives shows that we truly believe that? What does it mean to hope for what’s to come?
A few weeks after this happened, we were talking to James’s grandparents about our future and we mentioned we would love to go to a foreign country if that’s where God called us to plant churches among people who are unreached or unchurched. His grandma looked at us and asked, “won’t you miss your families?” We both answered, “well, yeah. But if that’s where God called us, we want to follow and obey.” What I didn’t say, and I wish I would have, was what God has been pressing on my heart about how temporary this life is, and how we can spend this whole life making this life comfortable. And that would be a life wasted. My family and James’s families are both followers of Christ, and I’m confident we’ll get a lot more time in heaven to worship our creator together. I don’t want to waste this life making myself as comfortable as possible.
I have been praying through Psalms lately, and at just the right time, I got to Psalm 39. The title is “What is the measure of my days?” Starting in verse 4 “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days: let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you…”
The measurement David gave for his life is a few handbreadths. (Two hands put together). That’s our life on this earth. David understands that it is so short, and we so often are in “turmoil for nothing!” What would it look like if Christians started to live as if we really understood how fleeting this life is. My guess is that we would do a lot of things differently. We would spend less money on ourselves and more on those who really need it. We would have a lot more meaningful and deep relationships. Our relationships would take on new purpose. I imagine we would be a lot more interested in making sure those around us know this Jesus we follow.
What does this mean for us? In his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper says “So live and so study and so serve and so preach and so write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation. And if this is my job, yours is the same, just in a different form: to live and speak in such a way that the worth of “Christ crucified” is seen and savored by more and more people. It will be costly for us as it was for him.”
In the same book, at the very beginning, he tells a story. His father was a traveling evangelist and the story is a story about an old man that his father used to tell. The entire town had been praying for this hard old man. One day when Piper’s father was preaching, this old man walked to the front of the church and sat on the first pew. Piper’s father sat down and they discussed Jesus and the gospel, and the old man gave his life to Christ. He then proceeded to weep uncontrollably, crying “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”
There are so many good things from this book. I could just stand up here and tell you quote after quote from this book alone and you would be inspired to not waste your life. But the reality is that most of you will leave, go to Afters, and have a great time, without giving much more thought to what I’ve told you tonight than a mere passing glance.
I know the rest of your life seems like a long time and you have plenty of time to think about it. I understand that, so I’m asking you to think about the next year, 2, 3 or 4 years. What will you do to not waste this time?
That brings me to my next point. One of my roommates from my freshmen year at Wayne State College and I are still pretty good friends and she went on to Bethel Seminary where she is getting her masters in Family and Marriage Counseling or something like that. Anyway, about 2 years ago she gave me a sermon that she heard called Admirer’s vs. Followers. It took me 2 years to listen to it, but it has revolutionized the way I view Jesus. I wish I could say I lived this out perfectly on a daily basis, but that would be a complete and total lie.
In light of not wanting to waste this short life on this earth, how should we respond? We need to be followers of Jesus. This phrase is used so often, I think we forget what it really means to “follow.”
The illustration the pastor used in this sermon was a great one, and I’m going to just go ahead and steal it. Imagine an entire crowd watching Michael Phelps swim. They believe that he is the best swimmer. He could win any and every race. He is that good, and people genuinely believe in him! They respect and admire him. They cheer when he walks down the street, they are excited about him and talk about him with other people. These people are admirers.
And yet, this pastor said, he likes to imagine that somewhere, a young boy was watching Michael Phelps swim, and thought to himself, I could do that. I want to do that! So, starting the very next day, he gets up early, eats differently, finds a swimming coach, swims every minute that he’s not in school…he essentially rearranges his entire life to be like Michael Phelps. He is a true follower of Michael Phelps. (Although I hope he doesn’t follow too closely in Phelps’s footsteps…if you know what I mean..)
There are a lot of people who are willing to applaud Jesus, to say, Yeah! He is great! I’ll even lift my hands and worship him. I’ll read about him, and I’ll maybe mention him to other admirers. We’ll all talk about how great he is. In Matthew 7, Jesus ends his famous sermon on the mount. You know what the crowd said when he was finished? “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” They were astounded at his ability to preach. He was good. They applauded him. Were amazed. They admired him.
Just before those verses, Jesus spoke specifically about being hearers of the word and not doers of the word. He said those who hear and don’t do are like someone who builds their house on the sand. Someone who’s hope is in something that might look good, but in the end will fall when the sands shift and the waters and rains come. “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:26-27)
There are very few that are willing to say, yeah. Jesus is awesome. Therefore, I am going to rearrange my entire life on this earth to be just like him, or as close as I can get. I am going to let him change me, and I am going to listen and follow where he leads, no matter where he asks me to go. I am going to work hard to make sure God is glorified, and everyone around me knows him. I am going to live and love and serve like Jesus did. I am going to FOLLOW Jesus. I want to be just like him. They not only read their Bibles, they allow God to change their lives as they live out what they read and learn to be more like Jesus every day.
Some might think that this is a way to classify Christians…The admirer being sort of a lesser, or less good Christian. The follower was the better Christian. I want to make sure there is no misunderstanding here. I don’t think Jesus was being lighthearted when he said “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-24)
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Obedience to His will is the test of true faith in Christ. The test is not words, not saying “Lord, Lord,’ and not obeying His commands. How easy it is to learn a religious vocabulary, and even memorize Bible verses and religious songs, and yet not obey God’s will…our hearing must result in doing.”
Some of you really do want to follow Jesus and be more like him every day, but if you’re anything like me, you keep falling and keep messing up. Your attitude some days can be more like a cornered wild animal, ready to attack than like Jesus. I have some good news—Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect. In fact, he’s well aware we will never be perfect. That’s the exact reason he came to this earth—to take our place and our punishment. Because we can’t be perfect, we are destined to hell. But Jesus came to be our substitute in that death sentence. He stood in the gap between us and our God Father and because he did that, we are now allowed to stand in his presence and follow him. There is grace in the presence of our Lord, and it is because of that grace that I want to keep following him. I want to keep trying to obey him, and live like him. Because I know when I get it wrong, He’s still going to say, “Keep coming. You’re doing great. “
1 John 3:7 says “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” Keep practicing, and in time we will grow to be more and more like Jesus.
Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian here tonight, you have a decision to make. If you don’t know Jesus, and are a non-Christian, or God has shown you that you have been merely an admirer of Him all these years, you need to put your faith and trust in Jesus, and live like him. Follow him. This life is so temporary, you don’t have time to waste in indecisiveness. Be sure of your eternal salvation with Jesus. I would go so far as to beg you—you don’t have time to even leave this room before you give your life to Christ and follow him. Don’t waste a minute. Don’t be the old man in the pew at church weeping “I’ve wasted it!”
If you are a Christian, and your heart is to really be a follower of Jesus, but lately, you’ve found yourself merely applauding good sermons and saying Amen when you read your Bible, but not living anything out in daily life, you need to come back and repent and start living like Jesus. Don’t be your own version of that old man weeping…knowing you’ve had all this time to live for God and follow Jesus, and you’ve wasted that time.
This life is too short to simply admire Jesus. Come, follow him. For soon, this life will be over, and where you spend eternity will depend on your decision to follow Jesus or not.