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James Merritt - The Only Way To Live

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    James Merritt - The Only Way To Live

If you're a guest of ours we're in a series in Galatians we're calling Free at Last. Because the vast majority of people that live, will live and will die in slavery and in bondage. There are people listening to me right now, you're watching by television, you're watching on a computer screen and you think you're free but you're not. You're in bondage. You're in bondage to lust. You're in bondage to materialism. You're in bondage to money. You're in bondage to luxury. You're in bondage to greed. You're in bondage to jealousy. You're in bondage to bitterness. You're in bondage to pride. You're in bondage to arrogance. You're in bondage to anger.

And there was a man who lived 2,000 years ago, his name was Paul. And he wrote this letter to a church in Galatia and it was all about how to shake off our chains and how to live free. How to live a life that's free from sin and free from shame and free from selfishness and free from self. See the reason that most people die without ever truly living and the reason most people experience death without every experiencing real life is because of something that Jesus himself said. Jesus said this, He said, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full".

Now if what Jesus said is true, that means until you know Jesus, until you have Jesus, until you experience Jesus, until you truly love Jesus, you really don't ever have life. Because he's the only one that can give you a life worth living. So that raises a big question, what is the life worth living? The only life worth living? And, of course, I believe as a pastor and a Christian I believe it is the Christian life. But that really doesn't answer the question. Because then the question comes, well what do you mean by the Christian life? If you say the Christian life is the only way to live, what does that mean? What does that life look like and why is that the only way to live?

Well, Paul answers that question. We've been giving out these little books and I hope you won't throw these away and keep them. We're gonna use them for awhile and so if you'd like to look on today on Page Six you're gonna see the scripture passage we're gonna be referring to today. It's Galatians, Chapter Two and I'll give you the verse in a minute. Before I do that, let me set this up. When I began to read my Bible as a boy, my mom ingrained that to me the day I got saved, she ingrained it in me I should read my Bible every day. I thank God that I had a godly mother that taught me that.

One of the first verses I ever memorized as a boy was this verse. And the reason why I memorized this verse is the first time I read this verse I didn't totally understand it, as some of you won't today. I didn't totally grasp in all of its fullness. But the first time I read it two things hit me. Number one, I need to learn this verse. I need to memorize this verse and number two, this verse if it's true, is the only way to live. And it may be the most comprehensive, compact complete description of what the Christian life is all about in the entire New Testament. Now, it's a very short verse but it's not a shallow verse. I want you to listen. It is a deep, deep verse. Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me".

Now, that's a deep verse and we're gonna unwrap it and we're gonna unpack it. It's gonna take a little bit to do and lots of effort. But I'm gonna kind of boil it down to you in a sentence. Paul said the only way to live is to die, but when you die you really live. The only way to live is to die, but when you die you really live. So what we're gonna do is learn today three things in this verse. But before I tell you what those are let me make something very plain. If you don't do the next thing I'm going to tell you you're about to waste the next 30 minutes of your life and my time. 'Cause this message will do you no good.

This message will have no affect on your life. You will walk out that door the same way you walked in unless you do the following. You have got to number one believe what this verse tells you and then number two you've got to start acting like you believe it. You gotta believe what this verse tells you. Then you've gotta start acting like and living like you really believe what this verse says. Because belief always determines behavior. Behavior does not determine belief, belief determines behavior. So here is what Paul is saying if you wanna understand how to live the only life worth living and what that looks like, you've got to believe and live as if three things are true.

Number one, I have died to a sinful past. I have died to a sinful past. Now, the verse begins by saying this, Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ". Now, obviously he wasn't referring to physical crucifixion or he wouldn't be writing these words. What Paul was referring to was what happened to him the moment he received Christ as his Lord and as his Savior. He said the moment I met the risen Lord on that Damascus road and I gave my life to Jesus at that exact moment I died. If you are an unbeliever, but you'd like to become a believer. If you're not a follower of Jesus but you would like to become a follower of Jesus, two funerals have to take place.

Number one Jesus had to die for you and then number two you have to die to you. And that happens when you surrender your life to Christ. We have a mission statement. You've heard it before. Our mission statement is to point people to Jesus and inspire them to live the cross-shaped life. What Galatians 2:20 is that's where we got this whole idea. That is the cross-shaped life. It is a crucified life. So here's what Paul is saying. Go back to that moment or go to that moment when you either have or you will accept Jesus who physically died for you. He said at the moment that happens you will spiritually die to you. When you accept the fact he physically died for you, you will spiritually die with him to you. Here's what that means. That means everything you were, everything you used to be, everything in your past, every sin, every failure, every mistake, every regret dies with Jesus on the cross.

You say, how does that happen? The reason why all of your past dies is because the old you dies. He died for you, you die to you. Take you back to grammar. Some of you may remember your grammar lessons early in school. There was first, second, third person singular. First, second and third person plural, right? I, you, right? I, you, me, we, you, they. Everybody remember that, right. I, you, me, we, you, they. Well, it hit me one day there's one pronoun in that list that's very dangerous. As a matter of fact, it is the most dangerous pronoun of the six. And it's that little word I. Because the greatest enemy you will always face in living the life that you ought to live and living the only way you should live is you.

So Paul says in affect, I will kill me unless I die to me. I will kill me unless I die to me. But he says the good news is the moment you come to Christ you die. So listen if you're a believer, if you're a true follower of Christ, every morning when you get up you can look in the mirror and the first thing you can say is I am dead. And for some of you that will be very easy 'cause that's exactly the way you feel when you first get up, okay. I am dead. So spiritually speaking if you wanna know what a Christian is he is a walking dead person. He's a walking dead person. We are dead to sin. Everything we've ever done wrong wiped clean. We are dead to self. I never has to control me anymore. Did you hear that? I never have to control me anymore.

Now, this is gonna sound very paradoxical, but here's what I'm trying to tell you. Living is all about dying. That's what living is all about. Now in case you didn't know this, let me just kind of remind you, nobody ever got out of crucifixion alive. One out of one people crucified died. It's 100% success rate. So, there were no exceptions. There were no exclusions. Even Jesus didn't get out of crucifixion alive. So what Paul is saying is when you allow yourself and you picture yourself being crucified with Christ you became dead to you. And by the way, the word there crucified, I've been crucified with Christ, is very interesting in the tense of the verb. Now in English tenses are not a big deal to us, right. Past, present, future about all we got. Greek has a lot of tenses. And there's one tense in the Greek language that is very, very powerful. It's called the perfect tense.

Let me tell you what the perfect tense means. When you use the perfect tense, you say something that sounds like you're talking about something that happened in the past and it did, but the affects of what happened in the past continue into the present and into the future, forever and ever and ever. That's the term that Paul uses here. Paul says, okay, I have been crucified with Christ. That happened when I gave my life to Jesus; however, the effects of that and the results of that are still ongoing even right now. So once you die with Christ everything in your past dies with you. That means no more skeletons in the closet. No more papers in a file cabinet stuck away that somebody can bring up against you. Every record erased. Every slate clean. Furthermore, the old you dies. That means your anger dies. Your bitterness dies. Your jealousy dies. Your profanity dies. It all dies.

When you're born in America one thing will happen to you. You'll be assigned a social security number. The day you're born you get a social security number. Everybody gets a social security number. Have you ever thought about what happens to that social security number when you die? It dies with you. I have a social security number. Nobody will ever have my social security number. It will never be reassigned. It won't be recycled. It won't be given to anyone else. When I die, you know what the Social Security Administration says? You're not the only one that died, your number just died. Nobody will ever, ever have that number again. It is as if to the Social Security Administration your number never even existed. It is completely, it is totally, it is permanently gone.

And what Paul is saying is when you're crucified with Christ, that means you are dead to all of your past and all of your past is dead to you. You don't ever have to carry the ball and chain of something you did way in the past that you've regretted all of your life. You still feel guilty about. You still have shame about it. Paul says that's all gone. I have died to a sinful past. Now, I think some of you would agree, wow, if that's true that's the only way to live. I agree. But then Paul says but it gets better than that. I just took care of the past, but what about the present? What about today? Paul says, well, you know what when you give your life to Jesus not only does it mean that I have died to a sinful past, it also means I walk in the strongest presence. I walk in the strongest presence.

Now, you may be saying or asking a question right now hey, wait a minute. You keep telling me I'm dead, but I'm still alive. I mean how in the world can I be dead and still alive? Well, let's keep reading. Paul said, "I no longer live". That's true you're dead, I get it. Then he says this, "But Christ lives in me". So here's what that means. You give your life to Christ immediately the old you is crucified. Immediately the old you is dead. But there's a new you that lives. And what makes the new you live is Jesus living in you. See, I've met so many Christians and, of course, about every non-Christian, that don't understand what the Christian life is.

So let me just kinda make sure you understand this, if you're not a Christian I want you to really listen. And if you are a Christian or you think you're a Christian or you say you're a Christian I want you to listen even harder. The Christian life is not you living for Jesus. The Christian life is Jesus living in you. And a lot of people don't get it. And that's why a lot of people struggle. It has to be that way. See if the new you is going to live, the old you must die. Well, why must the old you die? Because there's not enough room in you for two yous. You can only be one you. So either the old you is living in you or the new you is living in you. Your house is only big enough for one person. So you can't live in your house and Jesus live in your house at the same time. By the way, Jesus doesn't share a house. 'Cause let me tell you why some of you struggle in your Christian walk.

Can I just be honest and tell you? Here's the way you operate. You come to church and you let Jesus take your house over. So he's right here. And you sing the songs and you take the notes and you open the Bible and you nod your head. And so you're kinda in the flow of the Christian life. You got Jesus in here. But can I tell you what a lot of you do? As you walk out the door you got a little imaginary hook and you hang Jesus up on the hook. And then you go out there and live just like everybody else lives. And talk like everybody talks and walk like everybody else walks and act like everybody else acts. So what you did, you said, okay Jesus, you move out, I'll see you next week.

Now I'm taking over. No, it doesn't work that way. Jesus says no, I don't share my house with anybody. And as hard as this is to understand, if you are a follower of Jesus you are dead and alive at exactly the same time. Every time I meet someone, particularly when I find out that they're not a believer, I imagine a sign on them that says wanted dead and alive. 'Cause that's the way God wants you. Not dead or alive, dead and alive. God wants you to die to you, so Jesus can live in you. Now, if that sounds confusing and you say like I'm still trying to get there but I just can't quite get there. I'm gonna really boil this down and make it as easy as I can.

I want you to imagine that an unbeliever comes up to you. You're a believer. This person's not a believer. You're a follower of Jesus, he's not a follower of Jesus. She's not a follower of Jesus. She comes up to you and she says, you know I hear so much about Christianity and I hear so much about Christians and can you just tell me what does it mean to be a Christian? Can you tell me, I hear this story about the Christian life. You ought to live the Christian life. Can you just kind of tell me what does it mean to live the Christian life? Now, let's just all be honest. A lot of us would say, boy that's kind of a hard question. I mean that's kind of a, it's a long question. It's an involved question. It's a very detailed. And we'd probably all maybe give a different answer.

Okay, so I wanna help you with something. I gonna make it so easy. The next time or if there is a time when someone comes up to you and says to you, can you tell me what it means to be a Christian? Can you tell me what the Christian life is? Can you tell me why your life as a Christian is so different from my life? Okay, I want you to remember four words and you just answered their question. The four words are Christ lives in me. Now, let's say that together, ready. Say it one more time. "Christ lives in me". The only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is this He lives in one, He doesn't live in the other. That's the only difference. What makes the Christian life the Christian life is not that you're trying to hit a standard that person can't hit. You're trying to jump a hoop that person can't get over. You're trying to cross a bridge they can't make it across. That is not what makes it different. The only difference is that Jesus lives in you.

Think about that word Christian. It's just a combination of two words right. Christ plus in. That's it. A Christian is someone in whom Christ lives. That's why it's so frustrating to me when I share the gospel with someone and I talk to them about giving their life to Christ and being born again. You know asking Jesus to become their Lord, giving their life to Christ. They'll get to the end of the conversation, they'll turn me down. They'll say, no. And here's what they'll tell me. That sounds great and I know that I need it but I just can't live up to it. And it's so frustrating. 'Cause here's what I always say. Number one, you're exactly right, you can't. Number two, have I asked you to live up to anything? You go through this entire book. God never asked you one time to live up to anything. You know why? 'Cause you can't do it. He never asked you to. He never commands you to. Because He knows you can't.

The Christian life is not your living for Jesus. The Christian life is Jesus living in you. The great reformer, Martin Luther, once said when someone knocks on the door of my heart, I open it and they say, "Who lives here"? I answer, "Jesus Christ lives here". Inevitably they will say, "I thought Martin Luther lived here". To which I reply, "Martin Luther used to live here but he died, Jesus lives here now". And that is exactly what the Christian life is. Let me tell you how this relates to you in a very practical way. And I've done this so don't look too holy, 'cause you've done it, too. How many times have you ever tried to justify your behavior. A bad temper or some kind of a bad habit that you just practice over the years. It's just kind of ingrained in you. And you'll do it, somebody will call you on it and you'll say something like this, well, that's just the way I was raised. We've all heard it right.

Well, you know that's just the way I grew up. That's just kind of the crowd that I run with. Well, let me tell you what Paul is saying. Jesus died for you and was raised to live in you, so you no longer have to live the way you were raised. Or put it another way, Jesus was raised so you don't have to live the way you were raised. So the truth of the matter is you can break this, well, my dad did it. His granddad did it, his great-grandad did it. It doesn't matter. There's no such thing as a generational curse that you can't break. There's no such thing as saying, you know what, I don't have to do this anymore. I am a new me. I used to serve on staff, great, great Christian, great friend of mine, his name's Ashley Clayton. His son goes to our church. Goes to Mill Creek campus. And Charlton if you're watching, hey, Charlton, how are you?

So Charlton goes, he's one of our deacons. Great, great family. Ashley, I served with him for years and whenever he would pray he would always end his statement, his prayer with the same statement and it got ingrained in me. And it didn't matter what he was praying for. If he was praying for the food, he'd end it with this statement. If he was praying for revival, he'd end it with this statement. If he was praying for somebody to be healed, he would close with this statement. If he was praying for Georgia to beat Florida, he would close with this statement, always. Whenever he got to the end of his prayer, here's what he would say. He'd say, "And if there's anything good about me it's that Jesus lives in me".

If there's anything good about me it's that Jesus lives in me. So let me just kind of burst a little bubble today. You're sitting here today and you're listening and you think you know, I hate to say this but I think I'm a pretty good person. I think people should be thankful they know me. It's hard for me not to stand in front of the mirror and sing "How Great Thou Art". It's just hard for me to do that. Can I just tell you a little something? If there is anything good about you it's that Jesus lives in you. Because if Jesus doesn't live in you, with all respect, there is nothing good about you. The only thing good about your pastor, if there's anything good in me it's that Jesus lives in me.

Now just think about this. The only way to live right, this makes sense, the only way to live right is to have the one who is right to live in you. That's the only way to live right. I need someone who is right to live in me. How does that happen? Well, first of all I've gotta believe I'm dead to a sinful past. I've been crucified with Christ. I gotta believe I walk in the strongest presence. Jesus is in me. He never checks out at 12 o'clock noon. He never takes a break. He never goes on vacation. He never takes a sabbatical. He is always in me everywhere I go. That means I never face life alone and I never fight battles alone. He's always in me. But then Paul said but it gets even better than that. Because when you give your life to Jesus not only does it mean I died to a sinful past. It not only means I walk in the strongest presence. It means I live in the securest position. I live in the securest position.

Now, how do you live this life? You say, you may be sitting here right now and you be saying I am in. Tell me how to get in on this thing you're talking about. This is the greatest thing I've heard since ice cream. Let me know how you do it. How do you live this life? Well, it's gonna stagger you and amaze you how you do it but it's why anybody can. You ready? Paul said, "The life I now live in the body". This body, "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me". What Paul is simply saying is, okay this is the crucified life. This is the cross-shaped life.

So, let me give you some bad news, okay. I wanna go back to something I said a moment ago. Remember the person that said, I'll tell you why I'm not gonna become a Christian because I just can't live up to it. I could never do that. Okay, so again, I want you to hear this clearly. You can't live the Christian life on your own. It is an impossibility. So I wanna use some bad grammar, but it is fantastic theology. You ain't going to get to God on your own. It ain't going to happen. Now you grammarians out there they'll say, I can't believe you used the word ain't. Well as one great philosopher said, a lot of people that won't say ain't, ain't eating. Okay, so I'm not worried about it. You are not going to get to God trying your best, doing your hardest. Do it yourself project, the Home Depot way. I fix it myself. You can't do it and listen it's an impossibility.

Let me tell you why. Paul says it all begins by being crucified with Christ. Now why did Paul use that analogy? He could have used any analogy. He said I've been crucified with Christ. Why did he say that? Simply put, because you can't crucify yourself. Let's just say, totally hypothetical, you're thinking about killing yourself. Well, there's a lot of ways you can do it, right. You can shoot yourself. You can hang yourself. You can stab yourself. You can drown yourself. I'm sorry, you can't crucify yourself. Absolutely, impossible. Someone has to crucify the old you for you and Paul says that can only happen by faith. You've got to believe that the moment you come to Christ, God will crucify the old you, put his resurrected Son in you so He will live His life through you.

Now here's our problem. You say, well why do we still struggle? 'Cause Paul said we still live in this body. That's the problem and the Greek word there is actually the word flesh. In other words, there's one thing we have in common with unbelievers, they live in the flesh, we live in the flesh. They sleep in the flesh, we sleep in the flesh. They walk in the flesh, we walk in the flesh. Here's the difference, you ready? We live in the flesh, but we don't live by the flesh. We live in the flesh, but we don't live for the flesh. We live by faith. And by the way, we have no other choice. 'Cause this is what some people can't really get their hands around. The entire Christian life is lived by faith. You get into the Christian life by faith. You stay in the Christian life by faith. You die in the Christian by faith.

How are we saved? By faith. How do we stay in the faith? We stand by faith. How do we obey God? We serve by faith. How do we even understand this book? We see by faith. It's all by faith. Now, admittedly everybody lives by faith. So I'm just gonna make something plain. Faith by itself won't make any difference in your life. It may help you function but it won't make any difference in your life. I mean, but again, everybody has faith. I got on an airplane Friday morning in Panama City, Panama. I'm flying back home. People get on that plane, they were just like me. I got on, I had faith in the plane that the plane would work and I had faith in the pilot that he knew how to fly the plane.

So I went to the drugstore yesterday. People there lined up just like me. They had faith that the medicine that the doctor called in is the medicine they're going to get. And if you've ever seen the writing that a pharmacist or a doctor does you gotta do it by faith. You sure can't read it. It's all hieroglyphics. You just are believing I think this is the medicine the doc called in. I think this is the medicine that you're giving me and all kinds of religious people all around the world exercise faith every single day. But Paul said but there's something unique and there's something different about the faith of a Christian. There's something different and there's something unique about the faith of a follower of Jesus.

You say, okay, what is the difference? Watch this, he said, "Our faith is in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us". This is the difference. So you're a Muslim. You can't place your faith in a Muhammad that loved you and gave himself for you. You are a Hindu. Well, you can't give your faith and place your faith in an idol who loved you and gave himself for you. You're a Buddhist. You can't place your faith in a Buddha who loved you and gave himself for you. But every single day of my life I place my faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. That is the difference. And listen, if that's true, in what better position could I be in my life than to know that the one who lives in me has already proven He will be all He needs to be to me because He loved me and gave Himself for me. So someone beautifully put it this way. "The life that Jesus lived qualified Him for the death that He died and the death that He died qualifies us for the life that He lived".

So if you're trying to really get your hands around it and say, okay, can you just tell me in one single sentence what the Christian life is all about and what Paul was really saying? This one you might wanna write down. I'll leave I up here for a moment. Jesus gave His life for me in order to take my life from me, so He could live His life in me. That's the Christian life. That is the only way to live. Jesus gave His life for me in order to take my life from me, so that He could live His life in me. One of the movies that, by the way this one will never make the top 10 best films, and it shouldn't. But it's definitely worth seeing and I'd like to know how many of you saw it. How many of you saw the movie, "Madagascar"? How many of you saw that movie? Okay, if you've got kids you saw the movie.

Okay, and by the way, if you haven't seen it, you don't know what it's about just ask one of my grandkids. Okay, I mean they'll drive you crazy. They can quote every line of it. They know everything about it. And if you're familiar with it fine. If you're not I'll kinda tell you what it's about. It's an animated film and it starts out with a bunch of animals. They're supposed to be wild, right. But they live in a zoo. And so everybody who comes to see these animals, they're just in awe of these powerful, exotic beings. Well, everybody's favorite is the lion. And every time the lion roars the children just go nuts. And for the most part the animals love their life. I mean they're well cared for, trainers wait on them hand and foot. They've got everything that they need. And even though their habitats are designed like jungles, it kinda makes it look like they live in the wild, they really don't. I mean they're safe. They're comfortable. They're well fed. They get to sleep fine at night. Everything's good.

But then there is this zebra. And this zebra keeps dreaming about what the real wild would look like. And somehow this zebra has figured out deep down, I was not made to live in this zoo. I was not made to live in a cage. I was made to roam free out in the wild. I was made to live free in the open air. And he begins to get restless. And that restless spirit becomes contagious and so some of the other animals they get restless, too. And finally several of them escape the zoo and they find themselves stranded in a jungle and the jungle's called Madagascar. That's where the movie gets it's title. Well, that's when the movie really gets funny. Because you're watching these domesticated animals who grew up in the zoo and they're trying to survive in the wild in the jungle even though they were born to live free.

They weren't born to live in a cage in bondage and in slavery, but to be free, to be the animals that God created them to be. Yet, the zoo and the environment has ruined them. It's made them tame. And it's made them useless to live the way they were meant to live. They know the way they were meant to live, but they can't pull it off because the zoo has totally ruined them. It's such a powerful, powerful message. Because likewise, we were never meant to live in the cages of sin and shame and selfishness. We were never meant to be chained to the balls of pornography and bitterness and anger and materialism and greed and lust and jealousy and arrogance and envy. That's not what we were made for. We were meant to live in the freedom that only faith in the one who loved us and gave Himself for us can bring.

So let me just talk to two groups of people one more minute and we're finished. You're not a believer. You're not a follower of Jesus. I got a simple question. Are you tired of living in bondage? Are you sick of waking up every morning and thinking these bitter thoughts about the husband that left you with those kids? Or that relative that sexually abused you? Or that business partner that cheated you out of your money? Are you kinda sick and tired of getting up every day it's the same old trap of pornography or drugs or alcohol? Are you kinda sick of waking up to that self-made prison that you built to try to get to the top and get there before everybody else? To make sure since you live in a kind of dog-eat-dog, everybody slits their throat world, you slit theirs before they slit yours and you get yours before they get theirs. You kinda tired of that? Are kinda tired of thinking, well I'm just doomed to repeat the mistakes of the generation of the family that came before you? 'Cause you know what I'm already telling you is true, that's just no way to live.

And that's not the way you were created and that's not why you were put on this Earth. And let me tell you this, in the name of Jesus, you don't have to live that way. You don't have to live that way. Jesus came to set you free. And when you know the truth you are free indeed. Oh, but it's bigger, 'cause this is why I really came to preach this message. You're a believer. You're a follower of Jesus, at least you claim to be. I'm gonna ask some of you today to stop doing something that you may not even realize is happened to you, but it happens every single Sunday. You have let these four walls become a zoo in your life. You walk in here on Sunday morning and you get domesticated and you get tamed. Because this is kinda where you come to, you know, live the Christian life.

So I want you to hear me clearly. I won't say anything ever more important to this church than I'm gonna say today. Matter of fact, if I knew this was gonna be my last sermon, I'd say that's what I wanna tell them. You do not come here to live the Christian life. You come here to celebrate the Christian life. You go out there to live the Christian life. This is where we celebrate the Christian life. But it's in our homes, in our neighborhoods and our schools and the place where we work and the people that we interact with. It's at the Starbucks. That's where we demonstrate the Christian life. So I ask us today, don't hang Jesus up on the wall today when you walk out of here. Don't put your Christian life aside today when you walk out of here. Let's go out of here demonstrating to an unbelieving world that through the resurrected Jesus we can show people how is the only way to live.
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