Sunday Sermon: By Growing in Faith

Growing up many of my classmates and friends wanted to “be like Mike.” They tried to soar in the air like Jordan. They tried to play defense like him. They mimicked everything about him. 

Not me. I wanted to be like Mickey … Mickey Furfari. Now, that name will mean nothing to you, but back in West Virginia, he is a legend. Mickey is known as the dean of sports writers and has been covering West Virginia athletics for longer than any other journalist. I wanted to do what he did. I wanted to cover the same sports as him. I wanted to be in the same interview rooms like him. I wanted to be just like him. 

Now, I am sure many of you have people in our lives that you admired and who you wanted to emulate your lives after. We all have had people who we thought lived a life worthy of modeling our own life after. Maybe it is a family member. Maybe it is a friend. Maybe it is someone we worked with. Whoever this person may be, they have something about them that we want to be known by.

Sometimes, though, we do not always model our lives after the people in our life who we think live admirable lives. Sometimes we model our lives based upon the world’s expectations. What I mean is that we have as our main focus being accepted and seen by the world as a good person. All day long, we are bombarded with messages about what our life should look like or include and we believe that in order to be considered a valuable person, we have to live into all the messages. Be this. Wear that. Eat that. Live there. Go there. We spend a lot of time trying to live up to the world’s expectations of how to be a good parent, a good person, a good citizen, or anything else. The world tries to tell us a lot about how we are to live. 

In order to fit in, we try to conform to what the world desires and to look a lot like the world around us. But is that the life God desires for us? What often happens when we chase after the world’s desires is that we forget what God wants for us. God does not want us to be disciples of the world’s expectations. He wants us to be a disciple of his love and truth. He wants us to be in the world, but not defined by the world. 

In light of the resurrection, one of the responses that we are called to give is this life of discipleship and being defined by God’s love and truth that we see from our passage from Romans 12:1-12. The life God desires for us is to seek after him and have our entire life transformed by his redeeming and life-giving hope. To let go of trying to be like the world, but to strive for being more like Christ every day.

Paul writes this challenging word after spending the first 11 chapters of Romans writing his understanding of what the life of Christ and the resurrection means from a theological perspective. With these words, Paul moves into a discussion of how the life of Christ impacts our daily lives. Thus, in light of everything God has done through Christ, we are called to live a new life that is about growing closer to God every day and becoming more like him through his life. 

What do we mean by this? This idea of becoming more like Christ every day builds upon some of the things we have looked at during this Easter season. We already said that the resurrection changes everything and, as a result, calls us to live each day in response to the good news that Christ is alive and is present in our lives. Last week, we said that one of the responses to the resurrection was that we were to love the Lord. We are to express our deepest love of the Lord through daily worship. This morning, we want to build on that by looking at how we are to love the Lord and grow in faith daily as a response to the resurrection.

Paul recognizes something we often struggle with. It is not good enough to simply say you love the Lord. We cannot just stop there. Our love of God for what the Lord has done for us has to lead us to want to live a new life that looks more like Christ and less like the basic desires the world has to offer.

In light of what God has done, in light of the resurrection, we are called to be people who live differently. We are called to be people who act differently. We are not to be people who are defined by the world’s expectations. Instead, we are to be people who are a living sacrifice to God. We are to give our complete selves over to God as a response to the resurrection.  

To have the life God desires for us, we have to completely surrender ourselves over to him. That is an uncomfortable word and thought for us. We want to get by with only giving God Sunday. That is it. God can have Sunday and we can have the other six days of the week. It doesn’t work like that. God wants every day. Our entire life and everything about us is to be given to God as an act of spiritual worship. To live our life in constant trust in the Lord’s word and presence. We lay down our entire life to God and, in doing so, we gain our whole life. 

What happens is that the hope of the resurrection and the life of Christ comes in and recreates us into the image and people God desires for us. By surrendering our entire selves over to God, God takes us and molds us into something new, something beautiful, something that is unlike anything the world could ever offer. That is what it means to be transformed by God. God takes us and transforms us from who we were into the person we were created to be.  

We become a new person. By living for the resurrection and giving our entire lives over to God, we receive the freedom to be the people God knows we can be. We do not have to be defined by the things of this world, but instead we can be the very people God has called us to be. People who are not defined by brokenness, struggles, busyness, anxiety, or despair. Instead, people who live for Christ, are molded by Christ, and who have as their basic desire to be like Christ in all things. God wants to renew us and to make us into the people we were made to be.  

Living for God and seeking the life God desires for us is not a one-day proposition. We cannot claim it on Sundays only. It has to be every day. To seek this life we have to want it and strive for it. But receiving this life doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it. We have to train for it. 

Think of an athlete for a moment. When an athlete steps out onto the field, the athlete isn’t going into the game unprepared. There are hours upon hours of practices that are held before the first whistle is blown. An athlete who strives to be a better athlete is always at work, renewing themselves through practice, so that they will be the best athlete they can be. 

The same thing is true for us in our walk with Christ. If we want to have our entire lives transformed by God and led by the Lord we cannot just go into it without being prepared. We cannot say, “I’m going to live for Christ” without truly spending time preparing ourselves for what this life looks like. We have to be disciples of Jesus who seek to be daily renewed by his love and truth, so that we can live the life God wants us to live. 

Discipleship is the daily act of being spiritually renewed so that we can be more like Christ in our lives. Think of discipleship as the act of spiritually training ourselves and renewing our whole life so that we may reflect the life Christ desires for us. It is the daily act of doing things that renew our relationship with God, such as going to church, being in a community of support, being in a Bible study, reading the Scriptures, praying, and many others. All of these things allow us to grow closer to God, hear his desires for us, and be shaped by this word and life so that we may live for Christ. 

Imagine what our lives would look like if we committed ourselves to growing more like Christ and less like the image the world desires for us. What would be different about our lives? What would be different about our families? What would be different about our community here?

It is just as easy for us, as a community of faith, to conform to the desires of the world than to be led by the hope of the resurrection. If we want to be the church God desires us to be, we have to lay down the desires that we have for our church and claim the hopes and desires God has for us. We have to be led by God into the next generation of our church in such a way that is shaped by not what we want, but by what God wants in us and through us. We have to be willing to hear the voice of God speaking to us and allow God’s voice to lead us into the tomorrow of our church.

My friends, none of this is easy. It is not easy to be led by God and to have our entire life shaped by his love. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to make a wrong turn now and then. That is what happens when you are on a journey of discipleship and growing in our faith in God. None of this is an easy upward trajectory. If it was … everyone would do it.

This life is difficult. Discipleship and growing in faith is difficult. Yet when we strive for the difficult things, we will gain the things that are greater than words could ever describe. It is not easy to surrender our lives and to trust fully in God’s presence in all things, but I hope you will. I hope we will. Dare I even say, I hope that I will in all things.

What my hope is for all of us is that we will let go of our seeking to be like the world, and we claim the hope, joy, and love that God desires for us. May we grow closer to God in all things, so that we may be the people wants us to be every day.

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