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James Merritt - It's Elemen-Tree

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    James Merritt - It's Elemen-Tree

Solomon says, "You know what? You don't have to have fame or fortune. You don't have to have position of power. You don't have to have silver or gold. You don't have to be really, very smart or have a high I.Q". He said, "If you just will finally figure out and know one thing and do it, you will know and find the reason that you're here. And not only will you find out the reason that you're here, if you will know and do this one thing you will not only find your purpose and you'll not only find your meaning in life, you'll live with a purpose and a meaning that will outlast your life and will last out your eternal life".

And here's what he says in Ecclesiastes 12: "The end of the matter," that is, "Look, I've done my homework. I've already done all the heavy lifting for you. You don't have to go through what I went through. I did it for you. This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man". He said, "You want to know why you're here? I'll tell you why you're here. You're here to fear God, keep his commandments. End of story. That's it. Not real complicated. Don't have to go to school. Don't have to get a college degree to learn it. It's not really hard. It may be difficult but it's really not hard. All you've got to do to find your purpose in life is to understand you were put here to fear God and keep his commandments". And so what he does is, he tells us in that one little sentence, "Here's the things that we need to do if we're going to find and live out the meaning of life".

So here's what I want you to take out the door this morning. It's so simple. "Why"? is the question. "God" is the answer. That's it. "Why"? is the question. "God" is the answer. Here's what Solomon says. He says, "You want to know why you're here? I could tell you really three simple little reasons why you're here. Number one, you have been put here to fear God. You've been put here to fear God". Now, let me just stop right here and just kind of let you in on a little clue. The reason why most people, or a lot of people, at least, never figure out why they're here. They never really discover their meaning in life is because they totally misunderstand what their life is all about. The purpose of your life is greater than your life. I'm going to say that again. The purpose of your life is greater than your life. Your life, contrary to popular opinion, your life does not revolve around you. The purpose of our life is not what you can do for you, it's not where you can go, it's not what you can achieve, it's not what you can accumulate.

Solomon said, "The purpose of life revolves not around you. The purpose of your life revolves around God". So let me kind of put it to you this way. We were created to connect with the creator. We've been given life from God to live life with God and for God. I've been given life from God to live life with God and to live life for God. Now, the meaning of life, he says, revolves around the mystery of God. It's all about God. And he tells us what the bottom line is so I'm going to read it to you again. He says, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments. This is not part of what the reason that you're here. Not a lot of the reason that you're here". He said, "This is the whole duty of man". So, basically Solomon says, "I can summarize the meaning of life in two verbs. Fear and keep. That's it. That's why you're here. Fear and keep". Or if you want to use the words to an old hymn some of you are familiar with: trust and obey. That's why we're here. We're here to trust God and obey God.

Now, the place you begin is fearing God. The path that you take is obeying God. And the destination is eternal life with God. But it always begins, he says, with two words: Fear God. Now, let me just stop right here and try to kind of help you with something. I realize in a lot of churches today, nobody talks about fearing God anymore and there are two reasons for that. Number one, people don't want to, you know, preachers don't want to get turned off. There's some of you right now probably tuning me out, turn me off. "Yeah, I've heard about this big god before. Be afraid of this big, bad god. He looks to zap people and he wants to find you having fun so he can do something to keep you not having fun and all that kind of stuff". Right? That's not the kind of God that we serve and we're not talking about that. The other reason why is because people misunderstand what the Word of God means about fearing God.

So let me just kind of delve into this just for a minute. King Solomon doesn't mince words. He could have said anything you wanted to say but he said, "Yes, you must fear God". As a matter of fact, he's so emphatic about this that he keeps repeating this over and over and over. For example, back in Chapter 3, Solomon said, "Do you know why God's done everything God has done? Do you know why God's doing everything he is doing? Do you know why God is going to do everything he is going to do? So that we will learn to fear him"? He says in Chapter 3:14, "I perceive that whatever God does endures forever. Nothing can be added to it or anything taken from it. God has done it so that people fear before him". In Chapter 5:7 he said this: "For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity but God is the one you must fear".

Then he goes on to tell us, "If you want to maintain balance in your life, real balance in your life, you've got to learn to fear God". He says in Chapter 7, "Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this and from that withhold not your hand for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them". And then finally he says, "If you want your life to go well for you, if you want to get the most out of life that you can, and the best out of life that you can," he says in 8:12, "though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know it will be well with those who fear God because they fear before him".

Now, again, before you tune me out and turn me off, I want you to understand what he means by the word "fear". Fear does not mean the type of fear you would have of a bully. Or the fear that you would have of an abusive parent. That's not what he's talking about. As a matter of fact, let me just say something about fear because sometimes we fear fear and sometimes we should; sometimes we shouldn't. You know, FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". I would correct that to say, "The only thing we have to fear is the wrong kind of fear," because there is a fear that is a very healthy fear. For example, one of the things that you teach your kids or you better be teaching your kids is to fear the right things.

So you want to teach your children to fear touching a hot stove. You want to teach your children to fear picking up a snake and playing with a snake. There's a right type of fear that children should have of their parents that's not only good but in the long run is very beneficial. In my relationship with my dad, there were two things I absolutely feared with my dad. I feared his displeasure and I feared his discipline. I didn't know, I never wanted to do anything that would displease my dad. I wanted my dad to be proud of me. I never wanted to do anything that would break his heart. I never wanted to do anything that would put a frown on his face. I always wanted to live in such a way it would put a smile on his face. I never wanted to ever do anything that would cause my dad to say, "Son, I'm ashamed of what you've done". I always wanted to live in such a way that my dad would say, "Son, I'm proud of the way you live".

And, see, it's not just because I feared my dad. It's because I loved my dad. And I had such respect and reverence for my dad and a healthy fear of my dad, I did not want his displeasure. Now, on the other hand, I also feared his discipline. Because a loving parent, the Word of God says, disciplines their children not to hurt them but to help them. And I grew up in a home where I knew if I did wrong I was going to be disciplined. You know that fear kept me out of a lot of trouble. For example, there's a lesson I learned. I learned it the hard way, okay? Lesson number one in my house. I learned it the hard way and you can just kind of read between the lines. Don't you ever talk back to Momma. There's not a good future in that, at least in my house. It didn't work out too well for me, okay? There were certain things I knew. If I'd do those kind of things, it's going to bring my father's discipline.

Now, when you understand that this God that created you, this God that put you in your seat right now, when you understand that that God loves you so much, he wants to have a relationship with you so badly that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die for you, that he longs to have an eternal relationship with you, that he wants to make you greater than you could ever be on your own. He wants to make you better than you could ever be on your own. You ought to have as the number one desire in your life a fear of doing anything that would displease him. You ought to have a fear of doing anything that would cause him to bring discipline to you. That's why another word for fear is reverence. Out of a reverence for God, out of the love for God, and who God is and what God has done, we ought to have this desire everyday to please him in everything.

So let me just kind of say this and move on while I'm in the neighborhood 'cause we don't talk about this stuff very much. You really want to know why our culture is disintegrating before our very eyes? You really want to know why we're seeing violence in our homes, in our schools, with our teenagers, in our neighborhoods, why we have never seen before? You want to know why life has less value in America than it's ever had in our history? It's real simple. We have totally lost the fear of God in America. Totally. It's not even on our radar screen. I mean, we're just being honest. Politicians fear public opinion and polls more than they fear God. Teenagers, they fear disapproval of their friends and unpopularity more than they fear God. People fear criticism, being accused of being intolerant, being accused of being politically incorrect more than they fear God. Hey, we fear cancer more than we fear God.

Solomon says, "You really want to understand what the meaning of life is? Fear God. You know why? When you fear God, you don't have to fear anything else. When you fear God, you don't have to fear anyone else". So he said, "Here's the conclusion to the matter. Number one, fear God. Number two, follow God's commands. That's why I've been put here. To fear God and to follow God's commands". Now, keep this in mind. The number one reason why you and I are on this planet right now, the reason why we're breathing right now and the only thing that give meaning to life according to Solomon is knowing God. Here's the problem. You say, "Well, why don't more people fear God"? Because they don't know God. You're not going to fear what you don't know. That's why if you don't teach a child to touch a hot stove, what do you think that child's going to do? He's going to touch that hot stove. If you don't' teach a child not to pick up a snake, what are they going to do? They're going to pick up a snake 'cause they do not fear what they do not know.

Now, we were put here to know God. And that's exactly why God sent Jesus Christ and put him to be one of us so that we could know him in a personal way because the bible's very clear. You cannot know God unless you come through his son, Jesus Christ. So this is how the domino falls, right? To know God is to love God. To love God is to fear God. And to fear God is to obey God. That's how it works. And that's why you've got to keep those two things connected. That's why Solomon said, "You fear God and you keep his commandments". Now, keep this up here for a moment. This is really important. I don't want you to miss this. The order here is very important. And Solomon did it for a reason. He didn't say, "Keep his commandments and fear him". He said, "Fear him and keep his commandments".

You say, "I don't understand. Why is the order so important? Why is that such a big deal? Why is it you fear God and then you keep his commandments"? Here's why. First thing you've got to do with God is you've got to know God. When you know God, you'll love God. When you love God, you'll fear God. And when you fear God, you'll obey God. Now let me tell you why that's so important. This is why so many people that go to church miss this. So many religious people miss this. Watch this. This is how it works. You will not get to know God by obeying God. You obey God when you get to know God. That's why religion doesn't work. That's why we've got churches filled with people. They do all the religious things. They cross all the religious t's. They dot all the religious i's. They come. They sit. They take notes. They sing. They might even give some money. They might even do a good work here or there. They might pray to God everyday but they don't know God. You will never ever get to know God by obeying God. You obey God when you get to know God.

See, fear doesn't mean being afraid of God as I said just a moment ago. When you fear God, here's what it simply means to fear God, when you fear God, you'll love what God loves and you'll hate what God hates. What God loves that which is right and God hates that which is evil. So when you fear God and you love God, you'll always want to do whatever is good and you'll want to avoid whatever is evil. So to put it another way, when you fear God it simply means, "God, I love you so much, I just want to always do whatever it is you want me to do. And, Lord, I don't ever want to do what you don't want me to do". It's so elementary. It really is. So let me tell you how it works. To know God personally is to fear God correctly. To fear God correctly is to trust God completely. To trust God completely is to love God supremely. To love God supremely is to obey God totally. He said, "That's it. That's why you're here. Fear God and keep his commandments".

And, oh, by the way, see, when you trust God and you obey God you understand this is exactly what it's all about. Listen again to this verse, what Solomon said. He said, "Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the duty of mankind". Let me just let you in on a little secret. You see that word "duty"? That's not in the Hebrew language. That's a word the translator just stuck in there. You know why? Because in the Hebrew language, all it says is, "Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the...of mankind". And they didn't know what to put in there. So they said, "Okay, we'll just", "duty" sounds like a good word. We'll just throw that in there. But it's bigger than that.

You know why Solomon didn't put a word in there? What Solomon said was, "Oh, it's more than just your duty. This is the ballgame. This is everything. This is the essence of reality. This is the essence of life. This is why you're here. And no matter what else you do with your life, if you don't do this you missed it. The essence of why you are breathing right now is to fear God and to obey his commandments. That is what life is all about. That is what we were all meant and made to do". And so it just makes sense as you're going to see now. If the first fact is true: we're to fear God and if the second fact is true: we're to follow his commands, that will just naturally lead to the last key to finding the meaning of your life which is to fulfill your purpose. You are here for a purpose. God has a plan for your life.

Now we know what that plan is. What is God's plan for your life? See, in a sense, we all have the same plan and in a sense we all have different plans, right? For example, God's plan for my life is for me to do what I'm doing right now: to preach God's word. That is God's plan for my life. Will I do it good or not? That's something you've got to judge. I just know that's what God's planned for my life. You're not up here 'cause this is not God's plan for your life. God's plan for your life is to be a financial counselor. His plan for your life is to be a teacher. His plan for your life was to be a truck driver or a ditch digger or a doctor or whatever it may be. That was God's plan. So in one sense, God's plan for you is totally different than God's plan for me. On the other hand, God's plan for all of us is exactly the same. We all have the same plan.

What's God's plan for all of us? Fear God. Keep his commandments. Fear God. Keep his, that's why I can look at anybody on this planet. I could look at the pope. I could look at the president. I can look at a democrat. I could look at a republican. I can look at a liberal. I can look at a conservative. I can look at a white person. I could look at a black person. It makes no difference to me. I could look at anybody with 100% confidence and say, "I know exactly why you're here. You are here to trust God and obey God. You're here to love God, know God, serve God, worship God, and obey God. That's why you're here". I all revolves around God. Now, maybe you'll understand and hopefully this will speak to some of you in this room. Now you begin to understand. So why are people all jacked up? And, buddy, people are jacked up. Trust me.

Say, "Yeah, I'm married to a jacked up. I get it". Okay. Why are people so jacked up and cracked up and whacked up? Why? Because they were created for one purpose and they're trying to live for another purpose. And that's why Solomon concludes with this sentence: "For God will bring every deed into judgment with every secret thing, whether good or evil". Let me tell you what Solomon meant by that. Let me tell you why he added that last sentence. You know how you're going to be judged when you stand before God? I'm going to make this really easy. I'm going to kind of give you a sneak preview. You know how you're going to be judged when you stand before God? One criteria. Only one criteria. And here's the criteria: "Did you fear me? And did you obey me or not"? That's it.

"Well, I got a Ph.D". "That's not what I asked you". "I made tons of money". "Not what I asked you". "I raised a great family. I had great kids. I had a strong marriage". "That's not what I asked you". "I was uber-successful. I was the CEO of my company". "That's not what I asked you. Did you fear me, know me, love me, trust me, serve me, worship me? And did you obey me"? That's how you're going to be judged. That's the standard. And you talk about something being strong. He says, "I'm going to judge you as to whether or not you followed my plan and you fulfilled my purpose. Here's my plan for you. I want you to know me through Jesus Christ, my son. I sent Jesus to die for you. I raised him from the dead. I sent the Holy Spirit into this world for one purpose: so you'd know me and love me and worship me and serve me and fear me and obey me. And when you do that, then you have fulfilled your purpose".

That's how your life is going to be judged. I've told you this before. Your life's just like money. Just exactly like money. You can only do three things with your life. Only three. You can spend your life, you can waste your life, or you can invest your life. So you've got a lot of people out here. They're spending their life on what they think is good. They're spending their life on what they think is right. But Solomon says, "That's fine and that's good but if you don't know God, you know what it means? Nothing". And then you've got other people out here. They're not spending their life, they're wasting their life. They're buying all they can, getting all they can, having all they can, enjoying all they can, accumulating all they can, storing all they can, keeping all they can. Solomon says, "You know what? Without God it all means nothing".

And then there are people, they finally figure it out. I'm going to invest my life. I'm going to fear God, know God, love God, worship God, serve God, and obey his commandments. And Solomon simply says, "That's how your life is going to be judged. Plain and simple". Now, here's the Good News. If you are a follower of Jesus, if you have come to know God in a personal way through faith in his son, Jesus Christ, here's the Good News. That last sentence is not a threat. God's judgment is not something to be feared. You know why? Because all of our sins have been judged by our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. He's already declared us "not guilty".

So if you're a follower of Jesus, let me give you some really wonderful news. When you stand before God as a follower of Jesus, it's not to be judged primarily for what you did wrong, it's to be judged primarily for what you did right. When you stand before God as your Heavenly Father, it's not primarily to be rebuked for what you did wrong, but to be rewarded for what you did right. And you're simply going to be judged by how the fear of God and the obedience of God controlled your life. It's just that simple and if you truly know God through Jesus, when your life is marked by a healthy, holy fear of God, a deep passionate love for God, a grateful, humble obedience to God, you should not dread the judgment of God. You ought to look forward to the judgment of God. I fear God in a holy, reverent way.

And this may sound super-arrogant. I do not fear the judgment of God because that which I did not and do not want him to judge has already been judged through the cross of Jesus Christ. So I don't have any fear. I really don't. I look forward to that day when I can say, "Lord, I just want you to show me and share with me and tell me so what did your Holy Spirit do through me"? That's the meaning of life. That's the purpose of life. The purpose of my life, I was put here to know God, love God, serve God, worship God, obey God, fear God, and keep his commandments and to tell other people, "You can do the same thing I did," and I'm telling you today, 'cause I've lived it since I was nine years old, to trust him and to obey him is the only way to live.
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