Phil. 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.- I can only stand up here in front of you because of my faith and trust in God, not on my own. I trust that He will give me the courage to speak to you this evening. I believe that it is He speaking to you through me.
Iíd like to tell you a bit about my life from my childhood as I learned about God and Jesus, how I lived my life into midlife and about when I finally met Jesus on a personal basis. I would like to try to relate to you the changes in my life from when I just knew about Jesus and when I finally surrendered my life and put my trust in Him instead of myself. I also want to tell you how important LOVE has played in my relationship with God.
Almost 40 years ago I went to the altar for salvation and was baptized. I had always believed in God. I believed God sent His Son to earth, born of a virgin to die on the cross for my sins. I also believed that he arose from the dead to sit at the right hand of the Father. I believed all these things happened.
I would like to describe to you the outward appearance of my life. For we all have at least two sides to ourselves, the outward appearance we present to other people, and the inward part of us that only God can see and know.
As I grew into adulthood, I thought I was living a Christian life. I was active in church as a song leader, Sunday School teacher and even preached a message or two in the preacherís absence. By the outward appearance I was living a Christian life, doing all the things that Christians were "supposed" to do. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. [II Tim. 3:5]
I believe I was just living my life for myself and inserting God into my life at my convenience in order to appear spiritual. I was "serving God" according to my will, not His. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.[Matt. 7: 21-23] I was very unsure about myself and my faith. I did not feel love or compassion for the needs of the people around me. Needless to say, there was no fulfillment or peace in my life and I drifted away from God and the church family. I did not trust God with my life. I only trusted myself to make decisions that would be best for me. Since I found no fulfillment or peace in God, I turned to the world. I became a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.[II Tim. 3:4]
I would also like to describe to you some of the inner turmoil in my life at this time. I had feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. ( By the way, never let anyone tell you that you have no worth. We are unworthy of Gods love, but because of Godís love, we have worth and are valuable to Him.) Anyway, my parents had not ever told me they loved me. To this day they still havenít told me nor have I ever told them. I was never told that I did anything OK. I was mostly only talked to or given attention when I made a mistake or did something wrong. At that point I was punished or threatened with punishment if I didnít behave. I thought I was an unlovable person who could do nothing right in my fatherís eyes. Those beliefs were transferred to my relationship with God. I felt that in Godís eyes I was unworthy and not fit to be in His presence. Almost all my knowledge of God was what I had heard in church. I heard about a God that was just waiting to punish me if I sinned. Of course, since I believed I was unlovable and imperfect in my fatherís eyes, and I believed thatís the way God saw me, no way could I live up to anyoneís expectations let alone to God. I knew I could never be good enough for God to love. I did not trust God with my life. I was afraid to give it to Him because I knew He would reject me as unworthy if I ever had the courage or audacity to approach Him on a personal level. I had made some changes on the outside of my life, but those were only temporary. More importantly though, no change had been made on the inside where it is real. So I decided to leave God behind and seek fulfillment in the world, that is walking in the flesh. Doing what the Israelites did in Jud. 17:6 - every man did that which was right in his own eyes. I did what I wanted when I wanted no matter whom it affected or whom it hurt. I was seeking anything and everything in order to feel worthy and whole. To fill that empty void inside. That hole in the soul. I filled it with everything you can think of in this world, but to no avail. Iíll not tell you all the things I did because Iím ashamed of them but look up Gal. 5: 19-21 sometime. They list the works of the flesh. Nothing worked or helped me feel any better and I just kept sinking farther and farther into sin. I became so depressed I finally decided life was not worth living anymore. I determined to take my life. Nobody loved me or cared if I lived or died. My life wasnít worth living. I was not worthy of life. I have been studying personality types in my counseling courses and part of my temperament is Melancholy. I know you donít know what that means, but that particular type of temperament, when they decide to commit suicide, they mean it and usually accomplish it. So, I planned one evening for this to happen. This was sometime in 1992, some 5 years ago. I went to the store and bought all this alcohol for encouragement. Do any of you know the false sense of security that gives you? I hope none of you find that out, for that is all it is, a false sense of bravado. I was going to use my handgun, but mysteriously it had disappeared out of my locked glove compartment of my truck. I had always kept the glove box locked, and always kept the doors locked. To this day I have no idea what happened to that handgun. I had to eventually turn it in as being stolen. Since that wasnít going to work, I decided on pills and alcohol mixture. I drank lots and lots of alcohol for courage and took a whole handful of pills. For good measure, I turned on the gas of my cooking stove and heating stove. I lived in a very small trailer, probably 10x40. I was sure this would do the trick. Well, after I woke up in the morning with nothing more than a headache, I decided that I wasnít even a good enough person to commit suicide. More than that though, I started thinking there might have been some divine intervention involved and that maybe God wanted me around for some reason. From then on I started my search for God. Funny how I still thought I needed to look for God, as if he was hiding from me. Finally, a little less than two years ago, (Dec. Ď94) I got down on my knees, repented of my sins, and with a deep breath of apprehension asked Jesus into my heart, and gave my life and my will to Him. I met Him personally that night. The God that I had kept at a distance and didnít trust with my life because of my fear of rejection and whom I thought was just waiting to punish me for all the sins and wrongs I had done, was standing there with His arms wide open saying, Come unto me ye that are heavy laden and I will give you rest. [Matt. 11:28] And I became a Son of God [John 1:12] and a joint-heir with Christ. [Heb. 8:16-17] I presented my life to God as a living sacrifice which is my reasonable service. [Rom. 12:1] Christ sacrificed His life for me. He died for me. I gave Him my life in return, to live for Him. When I met my Savior I found a loving and a forgiving God. A God that accepted me as I am. A God that loves me unconditionally and in spite of my sin. I donít know if I was saved or not before that night I asked God into my life. I was never sure of my salvation. More importantly than not being sure though is that you can know. And now I have no doubts. I AM SURE!!!
What a change in my life that has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart..
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: all things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [II Cor. 5:17]
With Godís strength and guidance through the Holy Spirit, I can walk in the Spirit now and participate of the fruit thereof: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. [Gal.5:22-23]
That void has been filled with the love of Jesus and I am now whole.
I have a compassion and desire to live for Christ and tell other people what He has done for me and what He can do for them.
I know now that I am lovable and that God loves me. I know if I fail and fall that He is there to pick me up. I know because He has told me and I trust in His Word. You have a decision to make with your lives also. You can choose to go your own way and put your trust in yourself and follow your will, or you can put your faith and trust in God and follow His will. He has a plan for your life. Whom will you trust with your life and your soul? That is a decision you have to make everyday. What will it be? I hope and pray you make the right choice.
Let me tell you about the Love of God. Love is an action word. It is the giving of oneself to another. Godís love is an Agape love. A totally selfless love that moves us to respond to someoneís needs with no expectation of reward. Sacrificially. A love that says I will give 100% love even if I never receive anything in return.
[Luke 10:25-28] A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him saying, Master what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He [Jesus] said unto him. What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he [Jesus] said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
And then Jesus went on to give the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example. Of course what Jesus had the lawyer quote to him was the first and second greatest commandments.
This is the kind of love that we are to characterize as Christians. A love to be lavished upon others without a thought of whether or not they are worthy to receive it. At least 55 times in the New Testament we are commanded to love. It is one of the scriptures most repeated directives for the believer. It touches us in all of our relationships- with our spouses, children, friends and fellow believers.
[Matt. 5:44-45] Jesus says love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good unto them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
As believers we are to follow the way of love [ I Cor. 14:1], do everything in love [I Cor. 16:14], serve one another in love [Eph. 4:2], to live a life of love [Eph. 5:2], to speak the truth in love [Eph. 4:15], to put on love [Col. 3:14], to pursue love [I Tim. 2:22], and to love not only in words but in actions and truth [I John 3:18].
In I Cor. 13, Paul tells us " Though I speak with tongues of men and angels and have not love, I am as sounding brass or a tinkling symbol. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and I have all faith so as to move mountains and have not love, I am nothing. Though I bestow goods to feed the poor and I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." In other words, all of our gifts, no matter how excellent, are nothing without love.
Iíve wanted to be loved all of my life. I never thought I was ever worthy of being loved or ever being able to love someone. Iíve never known how to love, until I met Jesus. A love that never demanded me to do anything. He has shown me that I was lovable just as I am. But when I was able to accept His love for me, I found that I was able to love other people in return, just as they were. The way Jesus has shown me in His Word and examples.
Do you have this Love of God in You? Is God the most important Person in your life? Is He the love of your life? Is He in control of your life? Are you living to please God or yourself?
I ask you to search your heart and find the answer for yourself.