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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Getting What You Want Most in Life

James Meehan - Getting What You Want Most in Life

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    James Meehan - Getting What You Want Most in Life

Getting what you want most in life will almost always require you to give up the stuff that you want now. And this is true of pretty much anything that you want most in life, like if what you want most is to be a professional athlete, then you're gonna have to give some stuff up. You are gonna have to give up some lazy Saturdays, maybe some late night gaming sessions. You might have to give up some of that food that is oh, so delicious, but not very nutritious. Because to get what you want most, you almost always have to give up the stuff that you want now.

If you wanna be financially wealthy, you're gonna have to give up wasteful spending and you're gonna have to give up just doing the bare minimum to get by. If you want a rich dating relationship or a strong marriage in the future, you're gonna have to give up your ex and your selfish tendencies. Why? Because if you are taking notes, it is because what we want most in life, getting that will almost always require us to give up what we want now. Now, when I was in high school, before I started following Jesus, the thing that I wanted most was to be a professional fighter. I wanted to get paid to punch people in the face.

Now, I had to give up a lot of the stuff that I wanted to do with my friends. Like late night Friday night, partying and drinking because on Saturday morning, at the butt crack of dawn, I had MMA practice. And let me be the first to tell you. While being punched in the face is rarely pleasant, it is far better to get punched when you are sober than when you are hung over. Let me tell you, don't try it. Just know it is real. Now, all that was before I started following Jesus, and then Jesus changed my life. And what I wanted most changed overnight. Instead of being a professional fighter, the thing that I wanted most was to be faithful to Jesus and to be helpful to other people because of all that Jesus had done for me.

And living that kind of life meant giving up a lot of the stuff that I used to want because what I wanted most required sacrificed. It took hard work to become that kind of person, but it was so much more than worth it. This is why the gospel is such good news. Because no matter how much you give up for Jesus, he always gives you more back in return. Now we are wrapping up our message series, How We Follow Jesus, and throughout this series we have been looking at the gospel of Mark, where we've been hearing about the things that Jesus said. And to do our best to learn from his words and example to figure out what does it look like for us to follow him faithfully today.

And this week, we are in Mark 8. This is the turning point in Mark's gospel where all of a sudden, Jesus turns and starts heading to Jerusalem, the city where he will be crucified on a cross and eventually rise from the grave. We are heading toward Easter and Jesus has some important lessons he wants to show us before we get there. Now, what we're gonna read in Mark 8 begins with Jesus and his disciples leaving one place and heading to another. They were leaving Galilee and they went to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. "As they were walking along, Jesus asked his followers, 'Who do people say that I am?' 'Well,' they replied. 'Some say You are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.' But then Jesus asked them, 'But who do you say I am?'"

The first question was really just a warm up like he just kinda getting the conversation going, because at the end of the day, your life and your eternity does not hinge on who other people think Jesus is. Your life and your eternity hinges on who you believe Jesus is. That is why the most important question anybody can answer is this, who is Jesus to you? Not to your parents, not to your best friend, not to your small group leader or even your youth pastor.

Who is Jesus to you? Because how you answer that question changes everything. Like if Jesus is just some dude from a long time ago in history, then it is very unlikely that you'll give him any authority over your life or if your understanding of Jesus is he is just some distant deity that you appease by doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things, then it is very likely that you'll keep him at a distance. But if you recognize Jesus for who he is, as the son of God, as God himself, who left heaven became a human, he became one of us so that we could become one with him, then that changes everything.

And at this point in Mark's gospel, Peter is beginning to understand who Jesus is. So he answers, "'You are the Messiah.' But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Then Jesus began to tell them that the son of man, that's Jesus, must suffer many terrible things. He must be rejected by the elders, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. That he would be killed, but three days later, he would rise from the dead". See, at this point, Peter is starting to get it. That's why he says that Jesus is the Messiah. In other words, Jesus is the savior king and son of God. That's what the word "Messiah" means.

Peter is starting to recognize that Jesus is more than a man or a prophet. He is the chosen one of God who came to rescue us from our sins, repair our relationship with God and restore our purpose as God's people. But there's more to it than that. And Peter doesn't quite understand the rest. Because the more to it than that is how Jesus would go about doing those things. Because how Jesus would go about doing those things is by suffering, being rejected, sacrificing himself on the cross before eventually rising from the dead. Which naturally raises another question. If that's what Jesus was gonna do, then why exactly is Jesus worth following? Like why is Jesus worth following if he's just going to die?

And the fact that he's going to die is actually one of the things that makes him so worth following. Because Jesus is unlike any other king in human history. Because unlike every other king throughout human history, Jesus is not the kind of ruler who will force us to do something for him that he would not do for us. He is not the kind of Lord who is going to sacrifice us in service to him. He is the kind of king who chose to sacrifice himself to save us. That is why Jesus is worth following. He chose to sacrifice himself to save you. He's unlike any other king in history. He loved you enough to suffer, to be rejected, and even to be killed.

Now, what's interesting is that's not the kind of Messiah that Peter wants. Peter doesn't want a suffering savior. He wants a conquering king who's gonna show up in power to stomp the Romans under his boot. But Jesus had a very different plan. And so if we keep reading in scripture, we see something really interesting happen. "As Jesus talked about this, how he's gonna suffer and die openly with his disciples, Peter takes him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things". So Peter, "Hey, Jesus. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Love what you're saying, except that I don't, but let's talk about this over here. I don't want everybody else to hear. So your plan, I think it sucks. Now, I know I just said that you're the Messiah, but there's gotta be another way".

Like, are you kidding me, Peter? You just had this awesome confession of faith and now, now you are trying to correct Jesus. Interesting choice. And so we keep reading. And Jesus' response is fascinating because Jesus, after Peter does this, he turns around and he looks back at where the rest of the disciples are. I think he's trying to show Peter that Peter is not where he's supposed to be. Because instead of Peter being behind Jesus, following with the rest of the disciples, Peter has placed himself in front of Jesus and in so doing, taking the place of the devil. "So Jesus says, 'Get away from me, Satan.'" Other translations, "Get behind me, Satan, because you're not where you're supposed to be". Jesus is the Messiah. "Peter, get behind him. Follow him".

That's where you've been this whole time, and that's where you are meant to be. The mistake that Peter made is that he was seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's. He was seeing things the way that he wanted them to be and not actually the way that they were meant to be. So like how then do we avoid making the same mistake that Peter made? Wonderful question. That's question number three for us. It is, how do we follow Jesus? How do we follow him? And thankfully, the very next verse we read Jesus giving us the answer to that question.

"He calls the crowd to join his disciples. He calls the crowd and the committed. Brings them together and says so that everybody can hear. 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way. You must take up your cross and follow me.'" "You've gotta get behind me. You've gotta follow my lead. You've gotta be willing to go where I go. Do what I do, trust what I say, and learn to love the way that I love". Give up your own way. Take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is why at our church we have a value that says we give up things we love for the things that we love even more.

We believe that it is an honor to sacrifice for Christ, for Jesus and his church, his people, because what we have seen to be true time and time again is that when we give up our way to follow after Jesus, he gives us back so much more than we ever give up. I remember when I first started following Jesus, I had to give up a lot of the things that I used to want and I have gained so much more in return. I gave up my dream of being a professional fighter in order to become a pastor. And that was really hard at the time because like fighting and training Juujitsu was something I was so passionate about.

And to leave that behind felt like letting go part of myself. But it didn't take long for me to realize that fighting people in the ring was just a shadow of the joy and purpose I would find fighting for people's souls. Like when I eventually got married to my wife, I had to give up doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it and how I wanted to do it. Because when you get married, two become one. Like you join your life to theirs. And if I did not give up a lot of things like playing video games as much as I used to or going to the gym whenever I wanted to, then I would miss out on so much of the growth in our relationship that I've gotten to see.

And let me be the first to tell you. Crushing kids in cod and setting a PR in the gym has nothing on getting to love and serve your wife the way that Jesus loves the church. And then when I had a son, I had to give up even more of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it and when I wanted to do it because now, I'm welcoming a new human into the world and I have a responsibility to raise him to be a healthy, mature, and functional human being. And it's really hard sometimes, but it is more than worth it. Because this thing that I gave up in the past is so much less than all of the stuff I've given it up for.

And there's some of you right now who you get this because to get where you are in your faith, you've had to give up a lot of things that were really hard to give up at the time. Like you had to give up how much time you were spending on social media to replace that with time in God's word. You've had to give up some of your old and sinful dating habits so that you can actually honor other people in romantic relationships. You have had to give up some of your old friendships because unfortunately, they weren't good for you and you were not good for them. You have had to give up your own ego to humble yourself and follow Jesus trusting that what he has in store for you is better than the things that you want for yourself in order to actually get something that matters.

We often have to give up the stuff that we really like, but it is more than worth it. Because when you are following Jesus, no matter how much you give up, he will give you back so much more in return. And so what I wanna do is invite you to join me in a spiritual discipline that I'm planning to do from now until Easter Sunday. And this is a spiritual discipline that is designed to actually help us as human beings become the kind of people who give up stuff we love for stuff we love even more. Who give up the things we want in the moment so that we can actually gain what matters most. The spiritual discipline is called fasting and abstinence. Fasting and abstinence.

Now fasting is giving up food. Abstinence is giving up other things for a period of time so that you can grow closer to God. You give up these things so you can grow closer to God. And the goal is to actually give up stuff that hurts a little bit to give it up. To give up stuff that you love for what you love even more. Not just stuff that you don't like doing. Okay? That is not the goal of fasting and abstinence because it's about creating space in your life and in your heart to make room for God to meet you. So for me, what I'm gonna give up starting now and until Easter Sunday is I am going to give up video games.

And right now, that hurts to say because like I'm deep into this one game that I'm having so much fun playing and it's like it's all working. Okay? I'm doing really good, I'm making progress, and I'm like halfway through and I don't like stopping things before I finish them. But I'm gonna give it up. Because giving up the couple hours a week, I play video games and replacing that with time for my wife, my son, or reading spiritually enriching books. That kind of stuff actually is so much more valuable. So that's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give up video games from now until Easter Sunday. And on Fridays, I'm gonna give up breakfast and lunch, and I'm not gonna eat until the sun sets. And what I'm gonna do during those meal times is I'm gonna make those prayer times because what I wanna do is I wanna create space in my heart and in my life to grow closer to God.

Now, that's what I'm going to do. That does not have to be what you are going to do. If you like it and you wanna join me in it, fantastic. If not, then find something that works for you. The goal is to give up something so that you can grow in your faith. And if you are not sure where to start, I would strongly encourage you to check out the Bible plan, Becoming Like Jesus: Fasting and Abstinence. This is a Bible plan that we wrote to help you figure out how to practice these disciplines so that you can become like Jesus.

I think this could be a really great thing for you as a small group to talk about together. Because at the end of all of this, all of the things that we are doing for God, they are not something we do to earn his love because before we do any of that, Jesus died for us. We do this in response to all the things that he has given up for us. That's why we say it is an honor to sacrifice for Jesus and his people. Now, what I wanna do is read the rest of what Jesus has to say in this passage of scripture. And I wanna read it a little bit slower because these words have the potential to change your life in your eternity.

So if we keep reading. "Calling the crowd to join his disciples, Jesus says, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way. Take up your cross and follow me. Because if you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but you lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?'"

Jesus wants to make it very clear that anybody can experience life with him if they're willing to give up their own way, take up their cross, and actually follow him. And he wants to make it really clear that there is nothing more valuable than life with him because that's the only way we actually find life. But what if that's not actually what you want? Like what if you don't want to follow Jesus? He goes on to say that, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man, that's Jesus will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels".

Now, these words from Jesus, they're pretty severe, and that's because he wants to make it crystal clear that if you don't actually want him, then you won't get him. Like Jesus wants to make sure you know that it is up to you whether you give your life to him and find a life in return. Because if you don't want it, then you don't get it. He wants to make sure that everybody is on the same page, that you can choose him and lose the world, or you can choose the world and lose him. But at the end of the day, nobody can make that choice for you. It's all gonna come back to who is Jesus to you. Do you actually believe that he's worth following? And if so, how do you really do it?

And I hope that you would recognize who Jesus really is, that he is the Savior king and Son of God, that he came from heaven, he lived a human life, died on the cross, sacrificed himself to save you, and that's what makes him worth following. So give up your own way. Take up your cross and follow him. Because when you do, no matter how much you have to give up, he will give you back so much more in return. Because when you follow Jesus, he's gonna give you friendship with God.

He's gonna give you forgiveness of sins. He's going to give you a fullness of life unlike anything this world can ever offer. But at the end of the day, it's on you to make the choice. So will you give up the things that will never love you back for the one who gave up his life because of how much he loves you? I hope that you would choose to trust in Jesus and that you would discover what many of us have. That following Jesus is better than anything because following Jesus changes everything.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for your goodness and for your grace in our lives and throughout history that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. You are consistently faithful. You are always loving. So meet us here right now in this moment. Reveal yourself to us. Help us to feel your love in a way that is real, so that we would respond to your invitation to follow you with our whole lives. Help us have the discipline to give up what we want now so that we can gain what matters most. We pray all this in Jesus' name, amen and amen and amen.

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