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Start Living Desperate
Rekindling your first love for Christ
What really fires you up? When you sink that putt for your best score ever? When you produce a bumper crop in your garden? When you caught that 24-inch rainbow trout?
When you’re in your 80’s, you slept great and you wake up with no aches and pains at all. When all your young kids obey you all day long. When your neighbor comments on how nice your yard looks. When, as a single parent, your children tell you what a wonderful job you’ve done. When your son makes the final shot or hits the homerun? When your dog perfectly does the trick you taught him–you know, wash your car?
What really fires you up? What makes you boil? What gives you zeal? Where is your passion? My friends, the energy, passion and zeal you’ve shown toward those type of things or people deserves to be shown, and is to be shown toward Christ. All real believers are to be zealous people, committed followers, hot Christians, desperate saints.
Are you living desperately? Some of us are desperate for our country–right now we’re thinking, Trump or Clinton? Really? A few of us are desperate to get a job. When you lose your job or need a job, getting one can put a huge strain on your life. Some here are desperate to regain their health. Others here are desperate for their wayward children.
There are some here who are desperate to get married. We have awesome, trusting, undivided singles at FBC. But there are a few who are desperate. How can you tell? A rooster says, “Cock-a-doodle-do.” A patriot says, “Yankee doodle do.” A desperate single gal says, “Any dude–el do.”
Some of us are desperate to lose weight! More crunches, planking, less eating, no fast food, no soda–only salad and things that taste like cardboard. But are we desperate about Jesus Christ? Have you ever been desperate in your relationship with Christ? If you’ve lived awhile, you probably were at some point.
When you first got saved, you were desperate to know Him. Maybe during a difficult trial or some suffering. Maybe when you had your first child. Or when you almost lost your spouse to cancer. Or when your young children got scary sick. Then you were desperate. Turn to Revelation 3.
But when life drones on, when the edge of difficulty isn’t as sharp. When we’re far from the cliff of intense trials, we become less desperate, less committed–sort of on fire. We won’t deny Christ, but certainly were not giving our all. Sure, we might give some, serve some, but not sacrifice. Yet one of the indicators of a true Christian is hotness–being on fire, passionate, sacrificial and truly desperate.
How do we know? Because God describes the Christian life in desperate terms. First Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily”–killing your will and following only Christ. Luke 14:27, “Carry your own cross”–willing to die for Christ. Second Corinthians 5:15, “No longer live for yourself”–living only for Christ, who loves you and died for you. First Corinthians 9:24, “Run to win”–not running merely to get by, just to cross the line, but with strain, struggle, and agony, in order for you to win. Run to win.
You’re not to be the plant that springs up then dies–but you’re to be the plant that produces a lot of fruit. You’re desperate—hot, on fire, committed, going for it. Definitely not icy–definitely not cold to Christ. But neither are you comfortably warm, in the middle. How many of you consider yourselves hot? Cold? If not hot or cold, you’re lukewarm–a scary place to be.
Why scary? Look at Revelation 3:14 to 18 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.’”
Look at the obvious from this passage. God never spits His children out of His mouth. Never. God never calls true believers wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. And God’s call for white garments is the need for perfect righteousness–the need for salvation–meaning this. The lukewarm are not Christians.
The hot are Christians–the cold are non-Christians. The lukewarm are not believers acting like non-believers. The lukewarm are non-believers acting like believers, which means if you consider yourself not cold, not hot, but lukewarm–that’s a bad place to be if you think you’re a Christian. True Christians are hot–on fire, committed to Christ. Real believers are sold out to Christ.
Turn to Luke 14. Not perfect, but committed. Not all mature, but devoted. As you’re turning to Luke 14, own one key fact. The title disciple is merely another name for Christian. In fact, in Luke’s mind, the first name for a believer is disciple. “Christian” only came later, as he tells us in Acts 11:26b, “and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
So as Luke describes the nature of a true disciple, Luke is describing a normal, everyday, born again Christian. What does Luke say? Look at three key verses. Read the sold-out-ness of a believer in Luke 14:26, 27 and 33, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
Luke says for the genuine Christian, the authentic disciple, verse 26, no existing relationship competes with Christ, verse 27, a Christian is willing to die for Christ, verse 33, no possession competes with our affection for Christ. True disciples are sold out in heart–never perfect, never 100%, but a sold out heart desire.
“Wait a minute, Chris–I am a Christian, I know Christ. But I am not always hot nor sold out–how come?” We live in a comfort-driven, materialistic, lots of options, social media, video games, mega-distracted, convenient society. But there is even a bigger problem. Our hearts crave pleasure, comfort, ease, and the road of least resistance.
We must heed Moses’ warning to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:10 to 12, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
It is easy to forget what God has done for us. It is easy to forget what we were without Christ. It is easy to slip into whatever is convenient. It is easy to start thinking difficult is bad and comfort is good. But the Bible says there is a hotness to a believer’s life. There is a sold-out-ness to Jesus in a believer’s heart.
So how can we start living hotter? How can we actually live more sold out? How can our heart desire to live for Christ grow in our lives? What are some truths we should consider? What are some choices you can make? What are some areas to re-evaluate to help you today?
Turn to Hebrews 12 as you listen to 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” This is personal for me, for today I am teaching you some of my goals for my sabbatical. This morning, I am taking the opportunity to teach you some of what I desire to be growing in while Jean and I are gone after Easter Sunday, after next Sunday.
Jean and I will be gone for three months—April, May and June. Two of those months we’ll be in Hawaii being grandparents. We’re committed to the 3 R’s—reading, writing and Ryker plus Finn. Pray as I write my manual, or possible book, on training men in the local church–a desperate need in the Church today.
The third month, we’re traveling by car to see my mom and some national parks which only crazy creationists want to see. I get back in July, just in time to attend my doctoral class at seminary—again, I will then be halfway. While gone, I plan to grow my hair, maybe facial hair, and lose weight. But I am also asking the Lord to help me cut the fat in my walk with God.
Like the race in Hebrews 12:1 to 2, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”
Look at the words encumbrance and sin. Genuine Christians hate sin–so of course, when we run for Christ, we are to lay aside sin. But why should we lay aside an encumbrance? Encumbrance literally means weights. First century runners would practice running with weights. The weights would slow them down and encumber them. But in order to run to win, they’d run without weights.
This verse makes it clear, weights are not sin. Weights are things which slow us down, but are not sin, just encumbrances, meaning this. Running to win is more than not sinning. It is laying aside the weights which slow you down. Making choices to say no to good things, to accomplish the best things.
In order to live desperately, to run to win, you have to say no to good things, in order to say yes to the best things. While away, I plan to focus on carving out the good, dumping the better and attempt to invest my life into the best. To give up any freedom, any choice, any priority that’s not best. I want to make the PF Flyer choices so I can run faster and jump higher for God’s glory.
As I turn 60, I want to focus my race. I might slow down a little, but I desire to make it all count more. All for Christ, for His glory, for His Church, for His Word. So what are some principles that will help you and me to live desperately for Christ?
#1 Be willing to give up ANYTHING for Christ and choose to privately give up things for Christ
True believers die daily, carry their cross, no longer live for themselves, are willing to give up all their possessions, to show it. Give up food for a day by fasting in prayer to God. Give up spending money for a day to give it to the Lord. Give up half the clothes in your closet to someone in need. Give up your time to watch the kids of another family. When you buy food, buy someone else’s meal too–pick up the check for a couple or family you just met. And do that never to be noticed, but all for Christ’s glory.
What are some things you and I must give up? What? Anything that slows you down, takes too much time, and keeps you from serving, giving and glorifying God. Get rid of your weights which slow you down. It could be a freedom, a material thing, a special pastime, a show you watch, a game you play, a place you go to, your children’s over-involvement, the things you buy with credit, a purchase you make, the amount of friends you maintain–it could be a good thing . . . just not the best.
It’s not sin, but it slows you down in your race. Then give it up. Stop getting into debt, stop overbusying your life, stop flaunting your freedoms, stop saying, “Yes.” You’d give up anything and everything when you’re desperate. You’re on a sinking ship with all your wealth in gold bars on your person–and as you hit the water with your family, it’s dump the gold or drown, dump the gold or watch your kids die.
In a desperate situation, you’d be willing to give up all your wealth to save your life and your children’s lives. When you’re desperate, you’d give up anything. Christ gave up the glories of Heaven to be born a man, live as a servant, be obedient to the point of death, even the death of a cross. If you follow Him, you too will be willing to give up anything for Him.
Every day for you and for me, is lived, as a living sacrifice. After eleven chapters of profound truth describing God’s work in saving us, Paul says in Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
If you’re a living sacrifice, then you’ll sacrifice as you’re living. When you’re a living sacrifice, you’ll sacrifice as you’re living. Is sacrifice–giving up, surrendering time, giving money, donating possessions, limiting good involvements so you can focus on the best commitments a part of your lifestyle? When you’re desperate, it will be. Start living desperate.
#2 Keep your HEART intimate with Christ
God commands us in Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Keep yourselves in the love of God–God commands you to keep yourself in His love. The verb keep is also in the middle voice, telling us to act upon yourself to stay intimate. And love of God means stay overwhelmed by God’s love for you.
Part of the reason we take communion every week is because you and I often forget what Christ has done for us. You forget the sacrifices He made. You stop thinking of yourself as a desperate sinner in need of a Savior. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to wander from the Lord I love.” Keep your heart intimate toward Christ. Never allow your heart to grow indifferent, bored or routine.
When someone has a heart attack, the paramedics never take the time to fix the person’s messed up hair. If the heart is in crisis, it demands immediate attention. If you’re indifferent of heart, weak of heart right now–do not worry about appearances. Get it fixed before you leave this campus–it is deadly to ignore your heart.
Your heart is the center of your walk with God–where you deliberate, decide and direct your life biblically. Spiritually, the heart is the engine which drives your walk. The heart is the Hemi engine powering your spiritual race. Your heart must be up-to-date, meaning sin dealt with, relationship maintained, first love with no competitors. Your faith is not about what you don’t do, but how close you are to Christ.
Turn to Revelation 2. Stop focusing on externals. Do not allow yourself to make appearances the priority. Make certain your heart is hot for Christ. Is Christ the one you look to in order to be satisfied? Is Christ the source of your contentment? Is Christ truly your first love above all loves?
Read Revelation 2:1 to 5, “To Ephesus write: … 2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.’”
What is first love? First love has more to do with devotion than more activity. True devotion does lead to activity, but just because you’re serving a lot doesn’t mean Christ is your first love. First love has more to do with internals than externals. You can be overweight, have crooked teeth, crossed eyes and still have Christ as your first love.
I remember watching a commercial where they talked about horrid age spots, and watching a lady cover her hands with gloves because she had HORRID age spots. I thought, “That is ridiculous–get over yourself!” About two months ago, I just happened to glance down at my hands and my mouth dropped open and I gasped, “Those aren’t freckles!” I had HORRID age spots!
My second thought was, “Oh, I guess that’s what it looks like when you get older–that’s weird. Oh well, what’s for dinner?” The externals, your looks, your friends, your ministry, your church do not affect your first love. Your first love is a heart-driven commitment to Christ over anything and anyone. What is first love?
Nothing in your life holds more attention than Christ. No relationship competes with your love for Christ. No priority is more important than Christ. No joy has more delight than Christ—no competitors. Have you lost your first love? If you have, John the apostle commands you to act in three ways. For the road back, look in verse 5 where you find the 3 R’s.
1 Remember–where you have fallen
Take some time each day over a month to recall what your life was like when Christ was your first love, then think hard about where you are now. Then . . .
2 Repent–turn from the sinful choices you made that created this drift away from Christ as first love. Then do the deeds.
3 Return–alter your behavior and return to the lifestyle where Christ was your first love. That doesn’t mean dump your wife or abandon your toddlers. It does mean return to a lifestyle of treasuring, adoring and enjoying Christ first.
Friends, you cannot maintain a first love relationship if you only pray to Him and read the Word on Sundays. Make the decisions necessary to be in His presence daily. Second Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Keep your heart intimate with Christ–start living desperate.
#3 Live each day by the WORD of Christ, not feelings
Emotions are a part of your walk with God. Emotions occur because your entire person serves Christ. Something is wrong with you if you are never emotionally moved by Christ and your salvation. But emotions are not designed to direct your life. God designed us to be truth-driven. I want to be a truth-saturated believer with a mind disciplined by God’s Word who at times is emotional and battles with difficult emotions.
But I want to live by God’s Word and be led by God’s Word. The truth of the Word saves. Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Truth of the Word sanctifies. John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” The truth of the Word is the path to know God, not your feelings.
Too many Christians today are all about emotions, experiences and events. They define great preaching only by the level of passion of the preacher and not the accuracy of his exegesis. They believe they’re walking in the Spirit only when they feel love. They evaluate every event only by whether it made them feel good.
They only step out in obedience when they’re moved by the Gospel. They only believe worship is deep when they’re moved by emotions. Everything with Christ is only spiritual for them if they feel something. How they feel about Christ is what their faith is all about. Listen, the Christian life is not about what you feel. The Christian life is about what you know and who you know.
Animals live by instinct. People live by feelings. But Christians live by the truth of God’s Word. One believing writer put it this way–I’ve known people who simply stop and refuse to budge until they can stir up their emotions. They don’t feel like going to church. When their emotions are gone, attending church wouldn’t be real worship if they go. Therefore they don’t go.
Since they don’t feel like showing love to their wives or respect to their husbands, it wouldn’t be a spiritual action to them–so they don’t do it. They don’t feel like reading their Bibles, it’s a dry experience without emotion–so they don’t do it. Why? Because no emotion is involved, therefore it can’t be genuine nor Gospel-driven.
So what do they do about? They pursue getting emotions back. They sing some chorus over and over, or pray until they cry, or ask God to break their heart so they can feel again, or whatever it might take to stir up those flighty emotions. They chase their emotions, their experiences, and attend events so they can get going again spiritually.
Do you know what that is? It’s making a god of your glands. It is also tempting God. And it’s just another form of unbelief. I’m not calling for hollow, rote, ritualistic, going-through-the-motions Christianity on the one hand. But I am calling you to repent of constantly surfing to find the waves of emotions on the other.
There’s a category of attitude, of mindset, of frame of mind that exists in between those two extremes. It’s called living by conviction. This may result in emotion or be void of emotion, since it functions by taking your stand on truth, whether you feel like it or not. Living by conviction is living loyal to your relationship and obeying God out of a choice to love, with or without emotion.
True Christians live by truth. With conviction, they take their stand on God’s Word in order to please Christ. We often experience emotion as we walk with our God, but we don’t wait for emotion in order to please our God. We live by truth. Because of an overemphasis on pleasure and delight, and because of a subjective culture today, we’ve become addicted to and dependent on emotions.
That is not what the Bible teaches. Like the Psalmist, when you are afraid, can you put your trust in God? Like Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” Can you be like Paul in 2 Corinthians who was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”? Can you rejoice always, give thanks always and not have to be emotionally happy? Don’t follow your emotions, follow Christ as revealed in His Word.
Cut through the fog of emotions and follow God’s Word alone. Stop being bounced around by the highs and lows of emotions. Stop crashing, being depressed because you are listening to feelings. Take your stand on truth. Start living desperate by living by the truth.
#4 Be INFLUENCED by the godly who follow Christ
Seek them out, filter what they say by the Word, but listen. Be teachable, ask good questions, think about what they say. Seek the wisdom of those who are aggressively pursuing Christ. Where do you find them?
At church—and not merely attending church, or talking to a pastor, elder or godly man or godly woman at church. But the wisdom that comes from those you are in ministry with and in community with.
Next to the preaching of God’s Word, the greatest impact of the church upon you will be in the context of ministry and genuine community. FBC is committed to community. If you are not going to plug in, this is probably not your church. Being inter-connected to a church is a crucial means of grace. God wants to grow you through the local church and it is the people of the church who’ll model a hot spiritual life. How?
Through books and sermons–many godly men and women have written amazingly helpful books to challenge your heart and keep you desperately pursuing Christ. I am taking three crucial books with me. I would recommend you choose one to three great books to work through this summer in order to keep your heart in the love of God.
If reading is a struggle, then try audio books or sermons you can listen to and drive, listen to and do housework, plus listen to and work out. I listen to books on preaching at the gym.
With mentors and friends–ask the godly, mature, the experienced, and the wise who walk with God. Ask them about the application of truth. Ask them what they have learned, what they would suggest. Ask them about parenting, marriage, and choices you’re facing. We are so blessed with laymen in every community group, our elders and pastors you can ask anything of. I ask them.
Keep your heart in the love of God by surrounding yourself weekly, regularly, consistently with godly mentors. Pick your friends well. First Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” You don’t need as many friends as you have, especially if you hang with on-fire friends, running-to-win friends, die-daily friends. Want your heart to remain on fire? Then stay close with on-fire friends.
My beloved family, who you choose as friends determines the kind of Christian you will become. Start living desperate. Like the Apostle John said over and over to his congregation. Even when he was old and couldn’t walk, they would bring John before the church on a stretcher. The men of the church would lean the stretcher so they could see him. John would raise his hand and he’d say to his church, “Brethren, love one another.” Then they’d take him back to his house.
Faith Bible, love one another–keep yourself in God’s love. Run to win, flee sin and pursue Christ–stay hot. You will, as you give up anything and everything slowing you down, as you live being filled with His Spirit, as you saturate your mind with the Word of God and stop living by feelings, as you return to your first love, as you choose to surround yourself with friends who are spiritually hot and hungering after Christ.
Will you live desperately? Just take one step, but make a step to run to win. Nothing but death or serious injury will keep me from returning to you. But until then, I plead with you—start living desperate for Christ. Pursue Him. Keep living desperate. Keep yourself in the love of Christ. Run with Christ to win. Let’s pray.