Monday, September 15, 2008

The Fine Art Of Follow Through

It is always easy to start something…you name it a home improvement project, an athletic competition, a marriage relationship. It is quite another thing to finish and finish well. It is a huge commitment to give your life to Jesus, it is quite another thing to let Him live his life through you. Jeremiah knew this all too well in his challenge to the people of Jerusalem. He called them to “stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, and where the good way is, walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls”.

Today we stand at the crossroads between a life lived for self or for others. Are you ready to stand in the gap? Are you ready to be the life giving, breathing message of God? If you are then be prepared to always remember, always realize and always return.

REMEMBER Jeremiah 2v1-3

Israel’s relationship to God is likened to that of a marriage relationship and the nation had lost the beauty of their connection.

When love grows cold they say that with couples half the battle with couples is getting them back to when they first met, the circumstances that were involved and what drew them together…

I will never forget the time that Sharon surprised me when I was a student at PBC.

It was so amazing, the element of surprise,

Can you relate what is what like when you first discovered a real sense of connection with the Lord. What made it special, the wonder ,the joy.

Your service for the Lord must be fuelled by a passion for a genuine love for Jesus or the flame quickly burns out. It is a story that unfortunately happens all too often…

The honeymoon had ended and the thrill of marriage had left all too quickly…

So, what is the downward spiral? Jeremiah 2v13

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water

Forsaking God – the spring of living water – as their true source of fulfillment, definition and place in His family and going after other gods –

What kind of cisterns are people digging anyways?

You see the picture -- the incredible foolishness of somebody who has forsaken a living stream of water, with its freshness and its healing, refreshing quality, and has dug a cistern to catch the rain as it runs down the hillside laden with dirt and leaves and bugs and debris, and then stagnates in a broken cistern which leaks and will not hold the water

How much energy is spent going into defining ourselves by what we do or what others say about me or the stuff that I have accumulated? Answer these questions and you quickly find out where and how quickly you are digging.

It was Henri Nouwen who was convinced that the decisive point of Jesus’ public life was his baptism when he heard the divine affirmation, “You are my beloved on whom my favour rests” or “you are the one whom I love, with him I am well pleased”

We need to remember the love of God that drew us and is well pleased with us. It is hard to hear that voice in a world filled with voices of rejection telling you that you are no good, that you don’t have anything to offer unless you can demonstrate the opposite.

The greatest trap is not success, popularity or power but self rejection. Its true, I can give a message and a number of people can tell me how much they appreciated it. But, if one person comes up and tells me that was totally out in left field then what do I remember?

The quiet calming voice that calls me ‘beloved child of God’ comes in countless ways. It has come from parents, friends, ministry peers and that voice has had different tones urging me to stick with it, to remember my calling, to know that He is there.

REALIZE Jeremiah 2 v19, 20

It is important to note that the Lord does not bring charges against his people because of their thirst. He brings charges against them because of how they are satisfying their thirst. Desire is good. If you don't want something more than food, clothing, and shelter, you are not human. God created us with thirst. Don't kill it. Eventually, if you pay attention to it, the thirst in your soul will lead you to the Spring of living water.

v23,24 He gave animals a different kind of sexuality than he gave us, in order that we might learn from them, might have a vivid picture of how we look when we start lusting after everything that comes along, and being available for any kick, any thrill, any drive, other than God himself. So God holds up this vivid picture. This is the kind of figure God holds up and says, "That is what you're like. That is you, lusting after everything that comes by, living for kicks, wanting to be satisfied some way. He is challenging us to the core.

When we choose to satisfy our desires through indulgence, we're looking for a feeling, a buzz. We're looking for something that causes our soul to rise up and shout for joy. We find it, or think we will, in financial investments, another trip to the mall, check out the new Winners… Haagen Daaz, another drink of alcohol, pornography, an affair-or at the very least an active fantasy life. Whatever our drug of choice, it often becomes an addiction, because indulgence never delivers what it promises, and one always ends up begging for more.

When we choose to satisfy our desires through performance, we're looking for acceptance, applause, love. We're looking for someone somewhere to rise up and say, "You're okay." We're terrified of even one negative remark in a sea of positive feedback. We work hard. We crave accomplishment, success, achievement. We take the performance ethic with us everywhere-into the home, where we seek to be the consummate parents; into the workplace, seeking to put our best foot forward all the time. Performance often leads to perfectionism, because no performance ever wins enough applause.

What are you really addicted to? You name it and be honest with God –you get right to the root of it and stop just trying to cover up the symptoms. Maybe it is bitterness…God didn’t show up when you needed him or at least that is how you felt and you have been given over to complaining and negativity.

The nation knew that they had a problem and were quick to confess, but not quick to change and God had to take them through the ringer to come clean.

RETURN Jeremiah 3:11-13, 22, 25; 4:1

This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' Jeremiah 6:16

We need to stop the drifting now.

The calling we have is to stand at the crossroads.

We need to stop the drifting now. We need to walk in the good way.

The only way that we have rest for our souls is going back to spring of living water.

The only way we have rest for our souls is to acknowledge our guilt and our shame…how far and how fast we have fallen.

The ancient path is the path that leads to the death of self and becoming alive in Christ.

The ancient path is prayer…prayer that follows through – prayer that is listening with obedience.

The ancient path leads us back down those the painful roads except now it is not about us anymore and our fulfillment, its about finding others on that path and letting them see the love of God through me.

As William Young writes in “The Shack”

Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, many who are not part of any Sunday mornings or religious institutions…Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved. “Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads lead to you?”

“Not at all,” smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”

The Takeaway

We follow through when we let the truth of our being loved become fleshed out in everything we think, say or do. It transforms me into the beloved child of God, into one who says ‘Here I am, send me!’

Questions For Discussion and Small Groups:

1. What has become an artificial replacement for the presence of God in your life?

2. When did you feel most alive in your faith in Jesus? What circumstances surrounded that time?

3. Do you find that you are more given to treating the symptoms in your life as opposed to the root cause? What is really the sin that you need to realize and confess?

4. What will it take for you to know that you are a beloved child of God in whom He is well pleased? Is it more about doing or being for you?

5. What road is God leading you on to bring His presence?

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