James Merritt - Live Right
One wrong turn can cost you money, it could cost you a job, it could cost you the opportunity of a lifetime, it can cost you a marriage, it can even cost you your life. So, I'm beginning a series today, and I don't wanna hype every series that I do and I'm not gonna try to hype this one, but we're gonna call this series "The Right Turn" because I believe, and I think if you think about it you would probably agree with this, I think really there are three areas where everybody that ever lives on this planet better make sure they make the right turn. You better make sure you make the right turn in life, you better make sure you make the right turn in death and you better make sure that you make the right turn in life after death and I'll tell ya why to me that makes so much sense.
You better make sure you make the right turn in life because you only have one life to live. You don't wanna waste it, you don't wanna burn it, you don't wanna misuse it, and so you better make sure that you know, you make sure that you live the right life with the only life that you have to live. And then you better make the right turn in death because as I've already illustrated we already know we're all going to die. We're not going to live on this earth forever. One of these days we're all checking out and then we better make sure that we make the right turn for eternity because I happen to believe there is an eternity. I believe everybody after they die lives somewhere forever and if that is true then we better make sure we live right and we die right and we are forever right.
So, today I wanna talk to you about how to live right. Now before I do that let me go on ahead and get something out so, you know, get the elephant out of the room here. I realize some of you may be saying, "Well, let me just stop you right there. It's my life and I have the right to live it anyway I want to". You're exactly right; as a matter of fact, that's one reason we live in such a great country, it is your life, at least you may believe it's your life, and you can live any way you choose. I just wanna tell you I believe there's only one way to live right, but it's more than just saying the right things, or doing the right things, or going to the right places, or marrying the right person, or picking the right job. I believe the only way you can live right is to have a right relationship with the only God that is right. That's what I believe.
If you're gonna live right you gotta have a right relationship with the right God and when that relationship is right, you will live a life that is lived right. It's kinda like dominoes; if you just knock off the first domino every other domino will fall in place. And once you finally establish a right relationship with the right God, you will then begin to live right. Now if you're not a believer, if you're not a Christian, let me just tell you this is really what the Christian life is all about. Some people think, okay, when you think about the word Christian, do you think about, "Oh, I got it. Go to church, carry a Bible, don't dance, don't get drunk, don't go to R-rated movies, don't do this, don't do that. That's kinda the Christian life".
Has nothing to do with the Christian life, is irrelevant in some ways to the Christian life. Not saying they're not bad things, you know, to do or not do. The Christian life is all about being rightly related to the right God. That's what the Christian life is all about and that's why, by the way, I believe it's so important that those of us who claim to be Christians, we claim to be followers of Jesus, should just say that we are, we oughta show that we are. I don't believe we oughta just master the right life for ourselves, I believe we ought to model the right life for others. And Imma tell ya why this is a big deal. In a world that is full of spin, and hyperbole, and exaggeration, and outsider hype and lying, there's a post-modern generation out there that is searching desperately for something or someone that is real, that is genuine, that is authentic.
And if the church and those of us who claim to be believers in the church, are going to be taken seriously by the outside world, we're going to have to live right because those people out there and some who are in here who do not follow Jesus, they need to see in us who claim to be followers of Jesus, the Jesus that we claim to follow. Otherwise the church is headed for total irrelevancy. So, what does it mean to live right and how do you do it? Where's the good news? Bible's a big book, but I believe there's one simple, single, verse in the Bible that perfectly captures what it means to live right. If one of the first verses I ever memorized when I began to read my Bible, one of the first verses my mom told me, "This is a verse, son, you oughta commit to memory". And I did it many, many years ago. It is probably the most comprehensive complete description of the Christian life you'll find anywhere in Scripture.
What's gonna blow you mind is it doesn't mention the word "church," it doesn't mention the word "religion," it doesn't mention anything about good works 'cause all those things are irrelevant to living the right life. They may be the result of living a right life; they are not the cause. And this verse is found in a letter that a man by the name of Paul wrote to a bunch of believers in an area called Galatia. As a matter of fact, he wrote a letter called Galatians and if you wanna look along with me in your Bible if you brought one, or your iPad, or whatever you use, we're in the book of Galatians chapter 2. Now you may say, "I don't even know where Galatians is". I'll help you. The Bible is in two parts: Old Testament and New Testament. Not in the Old Testament, we're in the New.
When you get to the New Testament you get the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Just keep turning this way and you hit a book called "Galatians;" we're in Galatians chapter 2. I wanna read this verse of Scripture to you. It is a short verse; it is not a shallow verse. It is packed, it is loaded with vitamins and nutrients and all the things that you need to really live right. It's one of the first verses I memorized, it's a great verse. Here's what Paul wrote, he says: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me".
Now let me just kinda forewarn you before we kinda jump into this, okay? This verse is full of paradoxes, okay? It is very paradoxical, but it's not contradictory. Something can be a paradox, but not be contradictory because when you read that verse, if you read it carefully, it sounds like it's saying two different things, it really isn't. Paul's really saying one thing, he's just saying it in three different ways and here's what Paul's gonna say. He says, "Look, would you like to live life, since you've only got one life to live, would you like to live it right"? You say, "Yeah, I'd love to live it right". Paul says, "Okay, there are three things that you have to believe are true and you have to live like you believe they are true if you're going to live the right life". You will not believe how simple this is.
Number one: I must believe that I must die to me. If you're gonna live right you must believe you must die to you. Now the first six words are the bridge to the rest of the verse. He says this, he says: "I have been crucified with Christ". Now again, if you're not a believer, don't know much about the Bible, you go, "I don't even know what that means". So, Imma kinda break this down and explain to you. The first thing that Paul says is this, "The first thing you gotta realize, every single day if you're going to live right, the first thing you gotta realize is this: you cannot start living until you die". Now again, I know that doesn't make sense just hang with me. You cannot start living until you die.
You say, "Well, that sounds contradictory". It's not; it's paradoxical, but it is not contradictory. Two people have to die in order for you to become a Christian. Two people have to die. We all know what the first one, right? Jesus had to die for you in order for you to become a Christian, but that's not the end. In order to become a Christian, not only do you have to understand that Jesus had to die for you, you've got to also understand you got to die to you. As a matter of fact, that word "crucified" is interesting in the tense. Let me just back up, if you took English tenses in English are not that big of a deal. You know, you got past, present, future, and all that. It's not a big deal, kinda, you know, they're just tenses. Greek's different, tense is important, very, very important because whatever tense you use you're sending a message, alright?
So, this verse: "I've been crucified," is actually in the perfect tense. So, we don't even have a perfect tense in English, but in Greek they have a perfect tense. Let me tell you what that means. When you put something in perfect tense you're describing something that happened in the past, but the results of what happened in the past still continue into the present. So, when Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ," what he means is "I not only have been crucified with Christ, I not only died to me when I gave my life to Jesus, every day I've got to realize and believe I'm still dead to me". When you put your faith in Jesus here's what happens. When you put your faith in Jesus as your crucified Savior, you then have to realize at that moment you also join Jesus on the cross as a crucified sinner. He died for you, but you die to you.
So, let me put it to you this way: the first step to becoming a Christian, the first step to becoming a Christian, is accepting Jesus's death for you, but the first step to being a Christian is experiencing your death to you. Now again, I'm gonna make another paradoxical statement, just hang with me. Paul said, "Living is all about dying". Living for Jesus is all about dying to you. Here's what happens: when I was a nine-year-old boy, I've told you this before, about 30 miles from here I gave my life to Jesus at a theater (it's no longer there; it's on the square up in Gazelle), I gave my life to Jesus. Now I didn't totally realize this at the time, but when I gave my life to Jesus, God took the old me and God nailed it to the cross with Jesus.
Now I tell ya why that's so important, you may not know this, nobody ever got outta crucifixion alive. Crucifixion had a perfect, 100% death rate. Everybody that got crucified died. There were no exceptions, there were no exclusions, and when you allow Christ to become your Savior, when you allow Jesus to become your Lord, here's what happens: you are crucified with Christ and you become dead to you. I told my boys growin' up, I said, "Boys, the first thing you gotta do if you wanna live right, you gotta put self on the shelf". You gotta put, I'm not tryin' to sound like Dr. Seuss here, but you gotta put self on the shelf. You say, "Okay, I'm not quite sure what you mean". Well, I think you probably understand it, I think what you're saying to yourself right now is, "Man, that's hard to do," and it is.
Dying to self is extremely difficult because here's what happens, when you die to self, here's what just happens to you that means everybody else comes before you. Everything else comes before you, but Paul says, "When you accept Jesus dying for you on the cross, you also surrender to dying to you on the cross". So, you become a follower of Jesus and you're determined to live right, you say, "Alright, now Jesus you died for me and I accept your death, now Jesus, I die with you and I accept my death". So, first of all, I've gotta get up every morning, and I do this, I did it today, "Lord, just for today, I am dead to me. I have been crucified with you, I'm on the cross with you, I no longer live".
Step one. Second thing: I must believe that Jesus lives in me. It's not just enough to believe that you died to you, you gotta believe that Jesus lives in you. See, here's the beautiful thing: when you give your life to Jesus here's the bad news... it's really not bad, you may think it is: you die. The good news is you don't stay dead. He goes on, he said, "I no longer live," that is the old you; the you that doesn't do well sometimes, the you that messes up a lot, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me". Well why does the old you no longer live? Because the old you is crucified with Christ, but the new you has been raised with Christ and that's what it means to be a believer. You'll notice at this point he's not talked about church, he's not talked about baptism, he's not talked about religion, he's not talking about all these other things we think's important being a Christian. He's just saying the old you dies and the new you lives.
Now let me tell you why this has to happen. If the new you is going to live, the old you must die and let me tell you why. There's not enough room in your house for two "yous". There's just not enough room. Either the old you's gonna live and the new you is not or the new you's going to live and the old you is not. Just get four words in your mind right now and hopefully this will come clear, okay? The four words are: Christ lives in me. Christ lives in me. Now let me tell you why Paul said that. Imma tell you two secrets. They're dirty little secrets that a lot of Christians still don't understand and no unbeliever ever, ever gets this. Secret number one: if I were to ask all of you in this room right now, "Look, you wanna live right? You only get to go around one time? Do you wanna live your life right"? "Oh, yeah, sure I wanna live my life right".
Okay, here's the dirty little secret: you cannot live right on your own. Can't do it; you cannot pull it off. Absolutely impossible. If you're going to live right, here's what has to happen. You gotta have someone who is right to live right through you. And here's the other dirty little secret: nobody, except Jesus, has ever truly lived the Christian life, nobody. As a matter of fact, let me tell you something, if I were to ask you this question: "Hey, are you tryin' to live the Christian life"? You know, I think a lot of you'd say, "Yeah, I'm trying". Can I just tell everyone of you something? I'm not trying to be ugly and I'm not trying to be unkind, I'm including me. If you're trying to live the Christian life, you're probably messing it up. You're probably not doin' a very good job. You know why? Because on your own you cannot live the Christian life. Nobody's ever lived the Christian life except Jesus.
Listen, the Christian life is not your responsibility; it is your response to his ability. Think about the word "Christian". The word "Christian" is a combination of two words: Christ plus In. That's what it is. Christian. Christ plus In. In other words, living right, this is where people just don't get it, even some believers don't get it. Living right is not you getting out here and doing your best for God. Living right is allowing God to do his best in you. If there's anything good about your pastor is that Jesus lives in me. If there's anything good about any of you in this room it has nothing to do with you. If there's anything good about you, it's that Jesus lives in you. The only way to live right is to have the one who is right live in you. To live right I gotta believe I'm dead to me and I've gotta believe that Jesus lives in me.
That's the second thing. Now here's the last thing: I must believe that God is for me. I must believe that I must die to me, I must believe that Jesus lives in me, then I must believe that God is for me because see even though I am dead to me, Jesus lives in me. Now listen to what I'm about to say now, it's gonna sound paradoxical. You gotta die to you, Jesus has to live in you, but if you gonna live right it's up to you. Do you hear what I just said? You gotta die to you, Jesus has to live in you, but if you're gonna live right it's up to you. You say, "I don't understand what you mean"? Alright, there's only one way you can finally make all this happen in your life. If this doesn't happen the first two things won't happen. Let's address the verse. Paul said, "The life I now live in the body, I live by", everybody say that word, faith, "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me".
Alright, so let me stop. Remember, I told you you've got to live a crucified life. You gotta every day, you gotta believe you've died to you. You gotta believe you've been crucified with Jesus. However, what I just told you on your own is an impossibility. You say, "What do you mean"? Well, let me tell you something that's never happened in history. Nobody had ever crucified themselves. You've ever thought about that? You can't do it. You can nail one hand to the cross, what ya gonna do about the rest of it? Now you can stab yourself, you can shoot yourself, you can drown yourself, you can hang yourself, you can't crucify yourself. Somebody has got to crucify you for you and that can only happen by faith. When you come to Jesus, you not only believe that he comes to live in you, you also believe he crucifies you with him. You've gotta believe, "You know what? The old me has died and the new me now lives. I don't have to obey the old me anymore because the old me no longer lives".
Now I get it, on the outside it looks like we're all the same. You know, you think about the people that you live next door or people around you. They say, "Well, you live in a body like I live in a body," that's true. You know, you live just like I do. You live in human flesh just like I live in human flesh, that's true. But you say, "Well, what's the difference"? Here's the difference: people who are not believers, people who do not follow Jesus, they live in their flesh, but they also live for their flesh and they live by their flesh. We on the other hand, we don't live for the flesh, we don't live by the flesh, we live by faith. You say, "Okay, then how is our faith different? How's our faith unique? Why do you say our faith is one-of-a-kind, unlike any other faith"? I'll tell ya what makes our faith different. It's not how we believe that makes it different, it's who we put our faith in that's makes it so different because Paul drops the hammer when he says our faith is "In the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me".
Now watch this. The Muslim cannot place his faith in a Mohammed who loved him and gave himself for him because he didn't. The Buddhist cannot place his faith in a Buddha who loved him and gave himself for him because he didn't. The Hindu cannot place his faith in an idol who loved him and gave himself for him, but we live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. That's what makes our faith so unique, that's what makes our faith so different, that's what makes our faith so one-of-a-kind. And the reason I can live right and the reason I can die right, and the reason I know I can be forever right is for one reason: because Jesus loved me and gave himself for me. I love this statement: "The life that Jesus lived qualified him for the death, that he died and the death that he died, qualified us for the life that he lived".
See, this is what living right is all about. It's not related to religion, it's not related to church, it's not related to baptism, it's not related to a Lord's Supper, it's not related to the clothes that you wear, or the movies you see or don't see, or the things you do or you don't do. It is about a right relationship with the right Lord. So, in reality if you don't understand Christianity yet, let me boil down to you in this one simple sentence and you'll understand, you may not get it, you think it's nuts, you may think it's crazy, but the next time somebody talks about the Christian life at least you'll know what we're talking about, okay? Here it is: Jesus gave his life for me in order to take my life from me so he could live his life in me. And what that is, that's exactly what Paul said I just paraphrased it, that's all it is. "I have been crucified with Christ".
Jesus gave his life for me. But I've been crucified with Christ. Yes, he took my life from me, but the life that I now live Christ lives in me so that he could live his life in me. So, here's the question. We're gonna wrap this up, make it real personal. You're a believer, you say you are, at least you are, you say you're a Christian, you say you're a follower of Jesus, here's my question. What do you need to die to today in order to start living right? I mean really right. What do you have to die to? What do you really need to die to? Your anger? Your bitterness? Your jealousy? Your greed? Your lust? Your love of money? Your selfishness? Your desire to be accepted? Your desire to be popular? Which part of you needs to be crucified with Christ today? Which part of you do you need to say, "Lord, you know what? I need... sorry, would you please put this back on the cross with you"?
Let me just say this real quick. I've heard Christians say this: "I could never, ever forgive that person for what they did to me. I'll never be over to get over what that person has done to me". Yes, you can if you understand that you can die to that bitterness. You can crucify that bitterness and that Jesus who lives in you can help you overcome that bitterness. Well, what about those of you who are not followers of Jesus? You never really given a serious thought to it. You've been trying to kinda do this thing called life on your own. Now how's that working out for you? I can tell you, it's not. Or if you think it is at the end of the day, it won't. My question to you is: are you ready today to die to you so that Jesus can live in you so you can live right?