Bridging the Gap

  • Bridging the Gap
  • Mark 1:14-18
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • September 10, 2018
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9-9-18 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

(Baby picture flashes on the screen)

 

Is that a cute little guy or what? You look at that face and you see a picture of the innocence that resides in a child. Look closer at this picture and ask yourself what sort of potential resides in this little one as he grows? Look at his face and ask yourself what kind of person do you think he is today and what kind of person might he have become?

 

Would you be surprised if I told you that it was a picture of me? It is. It is a picture of me back when I was innocent and naïve. It is a picture of me before I learned how to sin.

 

Sometimes when I see old pictures like that one from my childhood, it causes me to go back and contemplate how my life might have been different than it is today.

 

What if I had chosen different friends? What if I made different choices? What if I had taken a different path? What if I had selected a different college? What if I had stuck with my first major?

 

If we were to be completely vulnerable this morning I think each of us would have to admit that we all wrestle with the “me” we want to be or could have been and the “me” we truly are.

 

We face a  gap between the two. Who can do something about that gap? Who has the power to forgive it? Who can begin to change it? Only Jesus Christ. He gives us both a compelling vision for transformation and a pattern of behaviors that provoke transformation. The good news is that we all can become “the me I want to be.”

 

This morning we are kicking off LakeRidge’s fall church-wide experience on this very topic, The Me I Want to Be. For the next few weeks I’m going to be speaking on this topic. Our Sunday School classes and small groups are going to utilize a DVD curriculum based on this theme. If you don’t have a Sunday school class say something to me after the worship service and we will be happy to help you find one that is right for you. We are also encouraging you to purchase the book of the same name by Pastor John Ortberg which serves as the inspiration for this church-wide experience.

 

  1. The best opportunity to become the me I want to be is when Jesus invites us to follow Him.

We see this illustrated for us in a story taken from the New Testament book of Mark 1:14-18.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News.15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” 16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

 

Simon and Andrew are going about their everyday lives, doing what they always do, trying to make a living, when they encounter Jesus. When they woke up that morning little did they know this was about to be a day that would forever change their lives. Little did they suspect what was about to happen.

 

Jesus offers them an invitation, but this wasn’t any ordinary invitation. Jesus invites them to experience something more than their lives have previously been. Jesus casts a bold new vision for their lives. Jesus invites them to experience fullness and abundance in their daily lives, the likes of which they have never experienced before. Jesus offers them transformation.

 

We see in the Kingdom of God the way life is intended to be. It is the way life is supposed to be. When we encounter Jesus Christ He offers us this same invitation. Jesus looks at us and sees us not as we are right now, but for all that we can be because He understands and knows the potential that was placed within us from the moment God created us.

 

Jesus comes into our lives to let us know that the Kingdom of God is here and open with all the love and power of God available to transform our lives. We might feel like we are stuck in rut or trapped in a pattern of behavior, but Jesus sees us and says, “Come follow me, I’m the one that can bridge the gap between the way your life is and the life you have hoped for.”

 

Jesus is able to speak into our lives with such authority because He demonstrated for us the flourishing of a human life as He loved, served, healed, prayed, died, and rose again. He didn’t live an ordinary life. He gave us the example of an extraordinary life.

 

Jesus’ call to follow Him is His invitation into the wonderful, yet rigorous life of spiritual transformation. In his book The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg says, “Jesus’ plan was not to start a church of people who call themselves Christians, but remain cranky, egotistical, judgmental, deceptive, greedy, lustful, gossipy, self-righteous and religious until they die and go to heaven. Jesus’ plan is to have a church of transformed people who experience and express the joyful life of God together for the sake of others.”

 

Think about John 10:10 and these words, “…My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”

 

Everywhere you look in Lubbock, TX there are people who are going about their everyday lives and they wonder if there isn’t something more or better out there for them. They try all kinds of ways to find meaning and fulfillment for their lives when Jesus Christ is the one who stands ready to bring purpose to their path.

 

 

  1. We grow more like Jesus as we arrange our lives around the activities Jesus himself practiced.

Matthew 16:24 says, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.’”

 

The kingdom of God is both the vision and practice of living the way Jesus did. When Jesus says, “Follow me” it not only means to enter into a new realm of kingdom life, it means doing the things Jesus did.

 

If it helps you, think of it this way. Jesus’ behaviors are doorways to freedom to live as the people God created us to be. For certain, this kind of thing isn’t going to happen all by itself. It isn’t going to happen by mistake or happenstance.

 

In order to begin to experience the life of fullness that Jesus wants to offer us we must train ourselves to be like Jesus. 1 Timothy 4:7 says, “train yourself to be godly.”

 

I don’t just wake up one day and decide that I want to be a marathon runner and compete the next day. To be a distance runner I have to condition myself for the experience. It takes intention, discipline and determination.

 

In the same way we have to submit ourselves to the training it takes to live a godly life. We have to look to Jesus as our example and we have to train ourselves based upon his model for our lives.

 

The problem is that if we neglect looking to Jesus we fall victim to our false selves — the me I don’t want to be.

 

In his book, John Ortberg describes some of the false selves that we tend to fall victim to:

 

The me I pretend to be –

This is the person who shows up for first dates and job interviews. This is the image we feel we have to project in life and it is draining.

 

What we really long for is to simply be ourselves. It is a relief to not have to pretend to pray more than we really do, or know more about the Bible than we really know or act more humble than we really are.

 

Deep inside of each of us is a person who longs to live without pretense. What we need to understand is that with God we never need to pretend. We could never fool Him anyway. He knows the truth. Our genuine brokenness pleases God more than pretend spirituality.

 

To be the me I want to be, I have to start by being honest about myself.

 

The me I Think I should be –

When I was a college student I remember my Wesley Foundation director making the statement that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In a nutshell that describes the problem with trying to be the me I think I should be. It is rooted in comparison, rather than focused on who God created me to be.

 

Henri Nouwen wrote, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.” The me I think I should be lives at odds with the me God made me to be and that only creates inner tension and stress in my life.

 

Maybe you think you have to keep an immaculate house, cook gourmet meals, keep a girlish figure, raise brilliant children, maintain a sterling career and have a fairytale relationship.

 

Maybe you think you have to have abs of steel, drive a sweet ride, bring home the bacon, take dream vacations, have your children in five activities each and the adoration of a sexy wife.

 

Or maybe, just maybe, what God is calling each of us to do is to let go of the false notions we have taken on about who are supposed to be in life and simply learn to be the person God created us to be.

 

The me other people want me to be –

If you don’t allow God to be the one who defines you, then other people will gladly step up to the plate to fill the void. Everyone out there wants us to be people that we are not.

 

Your boss wants you to be more committed to the company. Your health club wants you to be more fit (or least to continue to pay your gym membership!). Your dentist wants you to visit more often. Simply put, everyone has an agenda for your life.

 

Don’t believe me? Just look around at all of the parents who are out there living vicariously through their children as they haul them from place to place so that their children can accomplish something they never did or to relive their so called “glory days.”

 

Back when I lived in Arkansas one couple from my church approached me and wanted to know why I couldn’t preach more like Adrian Rogers who was a well-known pastor in the Memphis, TN, area. I had to look at them and tell them Adrian Rogers was a great pastor with thousands of followers at his church, but that God didn’t make me to be a clone of Adrian Rogers. My name is Lyndol Loyd and I seem to be the person God sent here to be your pastor.

 

God doesn’t ask you to be someone else or meet someone else’s expectations. God is calling you to be the best you that you can be.

 

The me I’m afraid God wants me to be –

I’ll never forget when I was flying back from a visit to the seminary I eventually attended to see if I liked the school. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was on the trip with me where I told her, “I guess my dancing days are over.”

 

Back in the day, I used to dance a pretty mean Texas Two-Step and cut a rug while doing the Jitterbug. I had some moves. I could do a dip, reverse dip, the pretzel, the butt spin and occasionally, with the right dance partner, a back flip. (I know. I know. Some of you are shocked right now. But it is all true.)

 

In my mind, I had equated that going to seminary and becoming a pastor meant that I would have to give all of that up. Fortunately, my friend was quick enough and wise enough to look me in the eye and ask, “Why?”

 

Unknowingly, I had made following God into a bunch of rule following. A list of things to do. Research shows that most people equate spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow rules in the Bible. No wonder people are unmotivated to grow spiritually.

 

There is an enormous difference between following rules and following Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “I have come that you might follow the rules.” Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life.”

 

The me that fails to be –

In this sense we are talking about circumstances where we have lost a sense of hope and meaning. There is a clear absence of mental and emotional vitality in life. There is a weariness of the soul and an inability to take any kind of delight in life.

 

This why we have the phrases “dead-end marriage” and “dead-end job” in our vocabularies. Over time, what takes place is that many people discover that becoming the person they were meant to be is harder than they thought or that it takes too long, so they give up on life’s purpose. Rather than having a life, they have an existence.

 

All of these “False Me’s” are prisons stifling our true selves. Jesus came to bridge the gap and set us free to experience “the me I want to be.”

 

In the Old Testament book of Ezekiel 37 there is a story where God showed the prophet Ezekiel a valley of dry bones. God looks at Ezekiel and asks him, “Can these bones live?” and Ezekiel answered, “You alone know.” God did know and the bones came to life.

 

Maybe some of you here this morning feel like your life is like the dry bones that God showed Ezekiel? Maybe you wonder to yourself, “Could I begin to really live?”

 

God knows the answer to your questions. Yes, you could really begin to live. It’s not an impossibility, but rather it is God’s greatest desire for each one of us.

 

Psalm 92:12-13 says, “12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. 13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.”

 

Following Jesus leads us into a flourishing life. Flourishing means becoming the person God had in mind in creating you. When you grow spiritually you do not become someone else, but the very person you were created to be.

 

PRAYER –

  • Making the decision to follow Jesus – best opportunity to become the me I want to be.
  • Help us walk on a path of spiritual transformation.