Pressing On To One Thing…

Happy New Year! Do those words represent for you a hope, a wish, a dream or a goal? I believe that every year that God gives us on this earth is to be a year where we are as productive as we can be for His work and as pleasing as we can be for His glory. The longer you live the more you realize just how fleeting these years are and just how important it is to maximize the potential of each year for being what we ought to be and doing what we ought to do.

At least half of us in this room will do something today, if we haven’t already, that in the beginning will be very exhilarating, but in the end very frustrating. We are going to make New Year’s Resolutions. According to USA.gov the top ten resolutions that Americans make every New Year’s Day are the following:

Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions
1. Lose Weight
2. Manage Debt/Save Money
3. Get Physically Fit
4. Eat Healthy
5. Learn Something New
6. Drink Less Alcohol
7. Quit Smoking
8. Reduce Stress
9. Take A Trip Somewhere
10. Volunteer To Help Others

Those are all very good resolutions. The problem is 4-out-of-5 people who make them will break them. One-third of people who make resolutions won’t get past the end of January before they break them. That is why I believe what we need is not a New Year’s resolution, but what we need is a New Year’s revolution. That is what we are going to be talking over the next two weeks. What does God say to us? He does have plenty to say about how we can maximize every year He gives us to reach our God-given potential to be what we ought to be, do what we ought to do and become what we ought to become.

Paul was writing from a Roman prison. As far as he knew, every day would be his last one. In a sense, every day for him was New Year’s Day. He gives us the secret on how to make every New Year your best year. He begins by making a candid admission which is the starting point for making your life better on a daily basis.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12, ESV)

What Paul is admitting is he has not arrived. He doesn’t have it all together. Though he has done a lot there is still more to do. Though he has been to a lot of places there are still more places to go. Though he has reached a lot of his potential he has not reached all of his potential. I don’t care how old you are. As long as you are drawing a breath on this earth there are always more lessons to learn. There are always more principles to apply. There is always more room to grow.

I am convinced the reason why so many Christ-followers are so ineffective in their Christian life and the reason why so many churches are ineffective in their mission is because they are involved in many things and they don’t really concentrate on one thing. I can’t tell you the number of times people come to me and say, “You know I would like to serve in our church and go on a mission trip and share my story and be more active, but I’ve got too many irons in the fire.” Do you know what I feel like saying sometimes? “Either pull out some of your irons or put out the fire!” Too many of us carry shotguns around firing buckshot everywhere when we ought to be carrying a rifle shooting a bullet at one target.

Anyone knows that concentration is the secret of power. If you take a river and make that river flow in one direction and one direction only and not overflow its banks it can become a tremendous source of electric energy. If you can take light and concentrate it and its power you can make a laser that can cut through steel. Likewise, Paul is saying, “Set the right goals in your life and not very many of them and then build your life around reaching those goals.”

–James Merritt

What’s In A Name

Untitled-1 2A local businessman was teaching a Sunday School class of fourth grade boys, and he was really trying to impress the class because his son was a member. So during the lesson he asked the class this question: “Why do you suppose that people call me a Christian?” There was dead silence. Not one boy or girl spoke up. He asked the question again: “Boys and girls, why do you suppose that people call me a Christian?” There was still no response.

Finally, the man paused, scratched his chin, and said: “Now come on, think about it. Why do people call me a Christian?” His own son broke the silence and spoke up and said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you!”

Well, why do people call other people Christians? What do they mean by that term? In fact, what do you mean by that term? Today that term is used more than any other term to describe a follower of Christ, and to describe so many things. People talk about the Christian church, the Christian faith. They debate whether or not we are a Christian nation. Yet, I believe the average person has no real clue what a Christian really is at least biblically speaking. Many who profess to be Christians really are not Christians at all, and many who use the term don’t even really understand what they’re saying.

I was amazed to learn that even though the term “believers” is used 80 times to describe Christians, “saints” is used 60 times, and “disciples” is used 30 times, the word “Christian” is used only three times. Believers called those referred to as “Christians” by unbelievers “disciples.” The two titles were synonymous. Both words describe the same people. All true disciples were Christians, and all true Christians were disciples. A disciple is simply someone who learns the truth that is found in God’s word, and then lives the truth that is found in God’s word. In fact, the definition Jesus gave the disciples was this one: “If you abide in My word you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31)

How this world would be changed if every Christian would just simply stand for Christ when the opportunity presented itself. I read something that staggered me the other day. If one Christian won one person to Jesus Christ this year, then next year those two won one person each to Christ, then the next year those four won one person to Christ, and so on, in 33 years, the time Jesus lived on earth, four billion people would be saved.

We don’t need to bring the term Christian down to the way many of us live. We need to raise the way we live up to the level of the name Christian. Then when people ask, “What is a Christian?”
They will have no doubt what a Christian is, and they won’t even have to ask the question, “Are you a Christian?” Because by the way we live, walk, and talk they will know it.

–James Merritt

The Gospel In Any Language

I heard about a German in Paris who was looking for directions and he pulls up to a bus stop where two Americans are waiting. The German said, “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” The two Americans just stared at him. He tried again, “Parlez-vous Francaise?” The Americans said nothing. The German tried again, “Parlate Italiano?” Still no response. Finally, he said, “Hablan Espanol?” Not a word. Frustrated the German drives off. The first American looked at the second one and said, “You know we should learn a foreign language.” The other guy said, “I don’t know why. He knew four languages and it didn’t do him any good!”

Every Sunday I come into this building, joy fills my heart when I see African-Americans and Korean-Americans and Caucasian-Americans and Indian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans all worshiping God together. It is a reminder to me of that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. Years ago, when we planted Cross Pointe, we had a vision for a church where anyone would feel welcome. That vision comes true every week. You are part of the miracle that started two millennia ago. This miracle was God’s way of saying, “It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what tribe you come from, what nationality you are or what color your skin is.” We are to take the Gospel to everybody, because the Gospel is for everybody.

There are 6,909 languages that exist in the world today. God wants Jesus Christ to be proclaimed in every one of the them. This is the promise of Pentecost. If you are in Christ, then the Spirit is in you and Jesus will come out of you. In other words, when the spark of the Holy Spirit meets the kindling of a heart for God, it will ignite a fire for Jesus Christ.

–James Merritt

If I Only Had Four Words…

If you could only say four words that the entire world could hear, what would they be? Maybe you’d say:

Stop all the fighting.
Have a good life.
Strive for world peace.
Be kind to others.
Be ready to die.
Get your hair cut.

If I only had four words, they would be the words in Philippians 2:11… “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Think about it—every word is important, from the first to the middle to the last.

His first name is Jesus. That name literally means “Jehovah saves.” As Jesus, He is our mediator. He stands between sinful man and Holy God. As a sinless man, He takes the divine hand of God, and as a saving God, He takes the depraved hand of man and joins the two together and becomes our mediator.

His middle name is Christ. The name “Christ” literally means “Anointed One”. Christ is His Holy name. As Christ, He is our Messiah. The Jesus of the New testament is the Messiah of the Old Testament. Jesus is not only the gentile Savior, but He is the Jewish Messiah.

But His last name is the name that brings it all together. This is the name which is above every name and the name which one day will bend every knee, bow every body, and open every mouth. That name is Lord. Lord is His heavenly name. The name “Lord” is rich and pregnant with meaning. It can mean Sovereign, Master, Ruler, and it can mean King. These are all so rich because they describe the way we relate to Jesus, and the way He relates to us.

He is Sovereign and we are subordinate. He is the Master and we are the slaves. He is the Ruler and we are the servants. He is the King and we are the subjects. I want to make it very plain that as Lord, Jesus does not want a place in your life. He does not want prominence in your life, but He wants preeminence in your life.

So the question is not, “Is He Lord?” That’s been settled. The question is, “Is He your Lord?” Have you surrendered everything to Him?

–James Merritt

Let the Fire Fall

“Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word. ” (1 Kings 18:19-21, NKJV)

I certainly don’t want our buildings to be on fire, but I do want our church to be on fire. Indeed, the greatest need in our churches, our homes, and our nation, is not men, money, might, machinery, or methods. The greatest need is for the fire of revival to fall on the pews of the church, the desks of the schools, the hallways of congress, and the oval office in the White House.

The first thing Elijah did was to confront this false god and his pagan worship. Now I want to call your attention to the obvious, which is, Elijah was not politically correct. You know today there are basically three ways you can relate the Lord Jesus Christ to every other religious figure, and every other religion in the world.

The first is inclusivism. That view says that Jesus Christ may be unique, but he does not have a monopoly on the truth. Other religions are also an expression of the divine. Other religions also have God’s revelation, just in a different form. Now that philosophy today is both politically correct and culturally acceptable.

But many say an even better way than inclusiveness is pluralism. This is the thinking that all religions are totally equal. Jesus Christ is no more unique than Buddha, or Mohammed, or any other religious figure. No religion has the right to sit in judgment on another religion, and any other view is simply religious bigotry. Everybody worships the same god, they just call him by different names, and everybody has a different way to god, and whatever works for you is fine.

Well, Elijah did not practice inclusivism nor pluralism. He believed in exclusivism. That is, there is only one God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore any other religion, any other philosophy, any other god is wrong, misleading, and false.

Do you know what people who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ need? They not only need to know the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, they need to see the dynamic of the Holy Spirit alive in us. People will turn from a false god when they see the evidence of the true God living in us. One of the great preachers in Great Britain of the 20th Century, was a man by the name of James Stewart. James Stewart once said:

“If we could but show the world that being committed to Christ is no tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony, but the most exciting adventure the human spirit can ever know, those who have been standing outside the church and looking askance at Christ, will come crowding in to pay allegiance…and we may well expect the greatest revival since Pentecost.

People still want to know that there is a God who answers by fire! I believe that when people walk into a church, it ought not to feel like a refrigerator, it ought to feel like a furnace where the Holy Spirit is ablaze in the pulpit, and the Lord Jesus is aflame in the pew. Our problem is, we have gotten so afraid of the wild fire of fanaticism, we have settled for the no fire of formalism.

Elijah wanted his people to know that he had great faith in a great God. The God that cannot burn wet wood isn’t worth dry faith. You know today, we would have poured kerosene on it and added matches to help God out. But not Elijah. He wanted to prove that his God could do anything.

Elijah wanted everybody to know that not only did he serve the only God, he served an omnipotent God for whom nothing is impossible. The problem with the average Christian is not that his faith is too small, but his God is too small.

Any prophet, professor, or preacher, that proclaims any other gospel than the gospel of grace, and worships any other lord than the Lord Jesus Christ, is absolutely false, and the fire will fall. It will either fall in retribution, or it will fall in revival.

Has the fire fallen in your life? Can I tell you how you can know whether or not it has? When the fire falls, here’s what happens: sin is burned out, the Savior is burned in, and self is burned up. When that happens, revival comes. So let the fire fall.

–James Merritt