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Participating in the Life Christ

 

1 Corinthians 10:14-17; Acts 26:12-23

 

Jim Davis

 

We know something about dreams. We have our personal dreams. We may dream of better health, or a prosperous life, retirement, etc. Most are grasping for their slice of the American dream. Most of our dreams are narcissistic in nature. We dream of getting what we want, what we deserve. We dream of life as we think it ought to be or should have been. Worldly dreams are focused on personal advancement, money, power, education, sex, name-recognition, awards.

 

Worldly dreams are about self. When our dreams are about self often they are expressed in a negative fashion. We talk about what the world owes us. We talk about what we arenít getting out of our marriage, church or job. We enter into life with this mindset manipulating, using, hurting and casting aside people who we believe to be a hindrance to fulfilling our dreams.

 

We may even convince ourselves that our selfish desires are Godís will for our lives. An overweight businessman decided it was time to shed some of the excess weight he had accumulated over the years. He had his annual physical and talked things over with his physician. Exercise and diet were to be the key elements of his new lifestyle. So he began walking every evening and took his new diet seriously. He even changed his driving route to the office to avoid having to pass by one of his more serious centers of temptation Ė the local bakery.

One morning he arrived at the office with a gigantic coffeecake and a box each of chocolate-iced doughnuts and Danish pastries. His assistant looked at him with raised eyebrows. But he simply smiled.

"This is a very special day," he explained. "I inadvertently happened to drive by the bakery this morning, and the sight and smell of these delicacies seemed to call my name. I felt there was something very purposeful about my being on that street at that very time, but then I remembered my diet. So I prayed, ĎLord, if you want me to have some of those delicious breads, give me a sign! Let me have a parking place directly in front of the bakery's front door.' "

"Sure enough," he said, "on my twelfth trip around the block, there it was!" (Rubel Shelly, Finding God's Will, Fax of Life, http://www.rubelshelly.com/content.asp?CID=18387)

 

Selfish Dreams the Source of Conflict

 

Sadly, our personal desires and dreams are often the source of lifeís conflicts. Personal dreams become a source of conflict when we feel deprived of our dream.

 

James 4:1-10

4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

 

4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?  6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

 

"God opposes the proud

but gives grace to the humble." 

 

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. NIV

 

ďSinful human nature cries out for the right of self-rule. The life goals that spring from the Iíve-gotta-be-me creed are always selfish and frequently result in others being manipulated and used, hurt and cast aside. For someone with that mindset to consider what it would mean to live under Godís rule is abhorrent.Ē (Rubel Shelly, Getting Over Ourselves, RubelShelly.com).

 

Thereís only one way to miss Godís dream for your lifeósimply resist Godís will. Selfishness will lead you to resist Godís will. Religion may lead you to resist Godís will. The apostle Paul was religious but he was missing Godís dream for his life. His religion led him to resist Godís will.

 

Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus to reveal Godís personal dream for his life. Paul writes, ďBut when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any manĒ (Galatians 1:15). God had a purpose for Paul when he was born. Paul accepted Godís purpose when he was called by grace to reveal Godís Son through his life.

 

What is Godís purpose for your lifeóit is to reveal Godís Son through your life to those who are lost. Salvation through grace by faith begins with accepting Godís purpose to reveal his son through you. This is the only dream God will empower you to accomplish.

 

Participation In the Life of Christ

 

Do you know the best evidence that we have discovered Godís dream for ourselves? Itís when we participate in the life of Christ. What a difference it would make if everyone who came to church came telling each other how they had met the living Christ in their circumstances during the past week of their lives. What would be more wonderfulóis for many of our children to witness our participation in the life of Christ as we deal with our family problems. This would be the greatest indication that we are participating in the life of Christ.

 

1 Corinthians 10:14-17

14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. NIV

 

The Corinthiansí conflict in the fellowship was the result of failing to participate in the life of Christ. They were blessed with spiritual giftsóbut they were bound up in selfishness. We will never escape the prison of our selfish dreams until we embrace the life of Christóuntil we participate in the life of Christ. Paul tells us what happens when we participate in Christís life.

 

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. NIV

 

Godís dream is realized by experiencing the life of Christ for ourselves. Participating in the life of Christ delivers you from the lie that God exists to get what you want out of life. Participating in the life of Christ brings us to the realization more is not always better, less is not always a curse, joy is not always without pain.

 

The incomparable joy to be discovered by chasing Godís dream for you to participate in the life of Christ out distances anything the American Dream has to offer. The American Dream comes at the expense of paying off credit cards with second and third mortgages on our earthly homes. The strain and pain of paying for those credit card items through long term mortgages last so long that you forget what the money was spent for. The items are long gone before the mortgage is paid.

 

God has a better dream for your life. It is both temporal and eternal. Think about the difference it would make if you made those sacrifices to participate in the life of Christ.

 

Mark 10:29-31

29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first." NIV

 

Often earthly dreams are lost in the stock market. They are lost when lives are shattered by divorce, financial loss, etc. Earthly dreams are left behind at death. Not so with Godís dream for your life. Godís dream is profitable for this life and the next.

 

1 Timothy 4:6-8

6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  NIV

 

How Do We Participate In Christís Life?

 

When Jesus appeared to Paul he spoke to Paul saying, ďNow get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show youĒ (Acts 26:15). Jesus wanted Paul to he had an appointed place for him in Godís scheme of things for our world.

 

God wants you to recognize his appointed place for youóhe wants to show you his way for your life. Thatís why Jesus appeared to Paulóthatís his reason for calling you.

Jesus spoke to Paul saying, ďNow get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.Ē Jesus wanted Paul to recognize his appointed place in Godís dream for our world. God wants you to recognize his appointed place for youóhe wants to show you his way for your life. Thatís why Jesus appeared to Paulóthatís his reason for Jesus calling you. You may be here this morning thoroughly convinced the direction you have taken for your life is the right direction. But are you absolutely sure it is Godís appointment for your life.

 

Service is the key word in ChristianityóChrist appeared to Paul to appoint him as a servant. This is where Godís dream begins for each of us. It begins with our relationship with those around us. Real relationships are built by giving rather than receiving. Giving demands a servantís heart. You can know Godís dream possesses you when it leads you to serve others.

 

Godís order of things is much different than the world order. Jesus taught us the way up is down. The way to be recognized is to seek no recognition. The way to become great is to be humble. The best way to help yourself is to serve others the way you want to be served. The best way to die to self is to live for others.

 

Godís leaders are prominently portrayed as shepherds throughout the Bible. Christians are portrayed as sheep. Jesus is referred to as the chief shepherd. Elders are shepherds of the flock. Shepherds serve the needs of the flock. David and Moses learned their lessons on leadership in a pastoral setting. I have never owned sheep, but I have owned a herd of cattle. I learned the needs of the herd took precedence over your own needs. You come to know each animalís individual needs. You can look at an animal in the herd and sense it is sick. You can tell how far along a cow is in gestation period. Their needs demand your attention. You may have a dream of owning a herd of cattle, but they own you. Their ownership of you demands you be their servant.

 

 ďLeadership is conceived on the model of giving orders and enforcing compliance Ė in a home, at work, with a church. If others have to be coerced or stepped on, so much the worse for them. And ďwinningĒ is the obsession that drives every decision and every relationship. Itís all about me!Ē (Rubel Shelly, Rubelshelly.com.)

 

Those around us are not here to make our dreams happen. In Godís scheme they are here to be served by the dream he has for you. Today leadership is viewed much differently.

 

The best way to be involved in evangelism is through lifestyle. It was Jesusí compassionate life that created a stir among those who met him. His life moved them as he met them on the street, in the work place, in the temple. His life gave his message credibility. Paulís message was follow me as I follow Christ. This is the message the world must hear.

 

Paul was a great leader but he was called to be a servant and a witness of Jesus--only servants are capable of witnessing to a lost world for Jesus Christ. We think of evangelism as a heavy-handed approach. We quote scripture. We pound on the table. We win arguments. We flex our muscles. The best evangelism in the world is for others to see the life of Christ through our lifestyles. For us to participate in living for Christ.

 

When the world sees you participate in the life of Christ it gives the word of God its credibility. Often lifestyles of Christians make the world turn a deaf ear to what the fellowship is saying. The fellowship loses its integrity. The world knows whether we are seeking personal advancement or the rule of God in our lives.

 

I was talking to a person doing business with a man claiming to be a Christian. The Christian always insists on having a prayer with this particular client each time they meet to discuss their business. But the Christian refuses to live up to his word in his business dealings with the client. His life does not witness the power of God. His prayers are a farce. A person may not know about the Bible, but they know when we are hypocrites.

 

We need to brush up on doing effective evangelism in the work place. You can do it without walking around with a Bible preaching to others. Just live a Christian life before your co-workers. Let your co-workers know you are interested in their needs. Show some compassion. This will create a thirst for salvation in the work place.

 

You may be a good church member, but do you participate in the life of Christ. Do you push others around? Strut in victory. Pout in defeat. Are you seldom honest with others, and never with self? Do you cry over self, but never over others? Do you want to be heard, but never listen? Do you forgive nothing and remember every slightówhether real or imagined. Do you think it is all about you? (Rubel Shelly, Getting Over Ourselves, RubelShelly.com).

 

Are You Kicking Against the Goads?

 

When Jesus appeared to Saul he said, ďSaul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.Ē The goad used by the Syrian farmer is usually a straight branch of oak or other strong wood from which the bark has been stripped, and which has at one end a pointed spike and at the other a flat chisel-shaped iron. The pointed end is to prod the oxen while plowing. The flattened iron at the other end is to scrape off the earth which clogs the plowshare. The ancient goad was probably similar to this instrument. When the ox left the furrow it was plowing he would be brought back with a painful prick of the goad.

 

It would be as painful for Saul to keep on in the wrong way as for an ox to attempt to leave the furrow. Your selfish dreams will only bring you and your loved ones pain and sorrow. Jesus came to reveal his dream for your life.

 

We kick against the goads when we fail to accept Godís will for our lives. We have self-made dreams with self-made goals to accomplish them, while seeking immaturely to manipulate God, family, yea our world to their end. A lady called a preacher complaining God wasnít giving her what she asked for to make her life better. She wanted to know, if it is Godís will to give us the blessings of heaven when life is over, why he doesnít give them to us now?. Apparently she was she was going through hardship for the moment.

 

The preacher told her maybe God didnít want her to have what she was asking for. Maybe having a trouble free life is not Godís will for your life. The hardships are designed to help us mature. Without maturity you will never enjoy heavenís blessings. We are to ďendure hardships as disciplineĒ (Hebrews 12:7). The hardships test our maturity. Maturity is revealed in perseverance. If we respond to hardships with patience, as we seek Godís guidance, Godís work will be completed in our lives.

 

We kick against the goads when we refuse to mature. Immaturity is a hindrance. A couple of weeks ago my grandchildren were visiting. My four year old granddaughter was in the back seat of the car. We were riding along and she decided she wanted a chocolate covered donut to eat. She had seen an empty Dunkin Donut sack in the back seat, which my grandson had left there the preceding day. She asked for a chocolate covered donut. I didnít respond with an answer. Suddenly she screamed, ďI want a chocolate covered donut!!!Ē I politely told her, ďI might be your grandpa, but you will never get a chocolate covered donut from me that way.Ē She looked at me with the most sobering look. She didnít get the donut that day or the next, or the next. I wanted her to know, if she wanted to get something out of me she would have to do it in a more mature way. I told her mom what I did. She laughed, and told me thatís what I should have done.

 

Immaturity is focused on getting and using things for personal advancement. This is the worldís dream for our lives. Money, power, education, sex, name-recognition, awards, you name itóare for the sole purpose of getting what you want. It is not Godís way.

 

We kick against the pricks in our refusal to suffer with Christ. Whatever dream you pursue will be accompanied with pain. There is a lot of suffering in the world today, but it is without Christ. The worldís suffering is due to our failure to seek Godís dream for our world. Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered (Hebrews 5:8-9). However, he was suffering to participate in the life of God.

 

Conclusion:

 

Jesus told Paul, ďI will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles.Ē Paul would be threatened by those with worldly dreamsóby the Jews and Gentiles. They would seek to be a threat to his dreams. But God would rescue him from their threats. Christ rescued Paul from his sinfulness to follow Godís dream. He would protect him as he followed Godís dream. God will rescue you from your sinfulness to follow his dream. God does his greatest work in the greatest of sinners.

 

1 Timothy 1:15-17

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. NIV

 

Paul became the chief of sinners by pursuing his own dream of how he thought the kingdom of God ought to be. He sought to excel his own ideas until he met Christ. Then he realized he was the chief of sinners.

 



 

Bible Study Questions

 

  1. What is the American dream? How is it usually accomplished?

  2. How does the American dream often become the source of lifeís conflicts?

  3. What does James 4:1-10 say about fleshly desires?

  4. What is Godís purpose for your life? What is the best evidence that a person is seeking Godís dream? (1 Corinthians 10:14-17; Galatians 2:20.)

  5. How does Godís dream for your life compare with the American Dream?

  6. How does one set oneís heart on Godís dream? (Colossians 3:1-22.)

  7. What are the temporal and eternal values of following Godís dream?

  8. What is the key word which describes Christianity? How does this compare with the worldís order of things?

  9. How are leaders prominently portrayed through out Scripture? How does this relate to leadership?

  10. How does Godís dream for your life fit into making Godís dream happen for others?

  11. How does this fit into evangelizing the world?

  12. What gives the word of God its credibility?

  13. How is it possible to be a good church member but fail to participate in the life of Christ?

  14. Discuss four ways we kick against the goads?

  15. To whom does God offer his dreams?

  16. What is the difference in Godís promises and Godís dream for your life?

 

 

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