Participating in the Life
1 Corinthians 10:14-17; Acts
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.
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
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,
Selfish Dreams the Source of
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.
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
"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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Are You Kicking Against the
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
What is the American dream?
How is it usually accomplished?
How does the American dream
often become the source of lifeís conflicts?
What does James 4:1-10 say
about fleshly desires?
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.)
How does Godís dream for
your life compare with the American Dream?
How does one set oneís
heart on Godís dream? (Colossians 3:1-22.)
What are the temporal and
eternal values of following Godís dream?
What is the key word which
describes Christianity? How does this compare with the worldís order
How are leaders prominently
portrayed through out Scripture? How does this relate to leadership?
How does Godís dream for
your life fit into making Godís dream happen for others?
How does this fit into
evangelizing the world?
What gives the word of God
How is it possible to be a
good church member but fail to participate in the life of Christ?
Discuss four ways we kick
against the goads?
To whom does God offer his
What is the difference in
Godís promises and Godís dream for your life?