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James Merritt - Always Ready

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    James Merritt - Always Ready
TOPICS: Joy Ride, Philippians

You know, sometimes you're asked a question that is so piercing, and so profound, that it continues to haunt you long after it's asked. For me, let me tell you when that question came. It actually came for me about, I don't know, maybe 10, 12 years ago. I was in an airplane at 10,000 feet. My oldest son, James, was celebrating his birthday, and he talked me into going skydiving with him. And you're in tandem with an instructor. And the only instruction, by the way, that I got was to sign a waiver that I wouldn't sue in case I got killed, that's the only instruction I got. So I will remember what happened that day until I'm gonna be 120. It was in August, it was a blistering hot August day. We're up at 10,000 feet, and when they opened the door, you don't realize how cold it is up there. This cold blast of air hit me right in the face, the noise rattled my teeth.

And I was sitting on the floor of the plane and my instructor is behind me. I mean, I'm literally shaking, I mean, I got cold feet, no pun intended, I really got cold feet, and I kind of changed my mind. Well, my instructor is literally, it's a tug of war, he's trying to push me out the door and I'm trying to keep from going out the door. But he had the leverage on me, he was stronger than I was. And I don't know whether it was from the cold wind on my face or the fear in my heart. But whenever I'm in a situation like that, I try to calm my nerves. So I try to think of a Bible verse for that situation. Believe it or not the only one that came to my mind was this verse. "God said to him, 'You fool, this very night your life will be demanded for you.'"

That's what I could think about. So here where we're literally, we're in this battle, he's trying to push me out, I'm trying to stay back, he's got to leverage, he's slowly winning. So we get to the edge of the plane, we're right on the edge. You can't hear anything, and he yelled this deeply profound question into my ear, here's what he yelled, "Are you ready"? I look back at him like this, my eyes were as big as a moon, and I was violently shaking my head no and with this wicked grin, he pushed me out the door. Now, when we got off that plane, when as soon as I fell, I knew at that moment, absolutely one thing was true. Either way it happened, no matter what happened, this would be my first and my last sky dive I'd never made, 'cause I was either going home or I was going to heaven, but I would never ever do it again.

And you say, "Pastor, would you recommend me doing it"? Not on your life, not for me. But I often thought about since then, that last question he asked me, I'm in a plane, two miles above the ground, he says to me, "Are you ready"? And if you think about it, it it's a great question, 'cause I wanna give you a challenge. If someone were to ever ask you, are you ready? If you are who you ought to be, and you are what you ought to be, and you are where you ought to be in your life, you should always be about to answer to that question with two words, not even give a second thought, always ready, I'm always ready. Are you ready? Always ready. Now, let me explain what I mean. You're not ready to live until you're ready to die, and you're not ready to die until you're ready to live.

And I can tell you with confidence today there are people listening to me right now at our campus at Mill Creek those watching online, watching by television, those in our building, some of you are not ready to live, 'cause you're not ready to die. And some of you're really not ready to die because you're really not ready to live. I believe that Jesus is the only one that can prepare you for both. We're in a study in the book of Philippians, a book called Philippians that we're calling joy ride. And by the way, if you brought your little discipleship book, we're on page 42 in that booklet, we're gonna be looking at that together because this book Philippians is one of my favorite books in the old Bible, I love to read this book, never get tired of it, 'cause it's brimming with joy. I mean, if you read this book and believe half of what it says, you cannot help a put a smile on your face. It was written by a man named Paul.

And here's what I love about this book. If anybody had a reason not to be full of joy. As a matter of fact, anybody had a reason to be joyless it was Paul, because when Paul wrote this book, he is writing from a Roman prison. And every night when he went to sleep, he had to go to sleep, ready to die the next morning, every morning when he woke up, he had be ready to live another day in that dungeon. Well, there's one thing he knew was going on even though he was in jail, Jesus was being preached on the outside. People he had won to Christ, people he had discipled, people he had trained, churches he had planted, they were out there preaching the gospel and he was so happy and so thrilled that Jesus was being preached.

Here's what he said, he said, "Christ is preached, and because of this, I rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice". It amazes me, Paul you're in jail. You may not get out alive today, you may die tonight, you may die tomorrow and your death won't be pretty. You may never get to preach in a church again. You may never see a friend of yours again, how can you always be so full of joy? How can you always be ready? And then he writes this one little short sentence, it's one of the most powerful sentences in the Bible. And it tells us why he was always ready.

As a matter of fact, if you were to say to me, "Can you give me a definition of a real Christian"? I would say to you, this one sentence in the Bible, may be the best definition of a Christian that I have ever read in the word of God. Because if you can say what I'm about to put up on the screen and you can mean it, that I know two things are true about you. Every day, you're ready to live, and every day you're ready to die. Here's the sentence, Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain". Beginning right here let's just say that together, you ready? To live is Christ and to die is gain, that one little sentence. Paul did something you don't, that really all of us really should do. He summed up his life in one word.

Now, I want you to ask you a question, I want you to imagine you and I just one-on-one in this room, nobody else is us, just us, just you and me talking. And just suppose I said, "Hey, let me ask you a question". Jeff or David, or Mike, or Billy, or Pete, or Joe, or Sally, hey, let me ask you a question. Think about your life right now. If you were to boil your life all down to one word, everything you are, everything that drives you, everything you're known for, if you were to say that in one word, what would your word be? And just be honest, don't lie about it, be honest. See for some of you, here's what you would say, "My life is achievement. I'm a very successful business person, I've given my life to my work, it's paid off in so many ways".

Some of you, many of you, if you were honest, you'd say, "Well, my life is family. I mean, my number one priority in my life is my spouse, my children, my parents, my grandchildren, my brothers, my sisters, I make every decision in life based on what's best for my family". A lot of people would say, "My life is acceptance. The central driving force in my life, I wanna be liked. I wanna be with the in-crowd, I wanna be accepted, I want to be liked by everybody". Well, in Philippians, Paul engages his little thought experiment and he said, "My life is Christ". It's nothing else, nothing but, my life is Christ, Jesus was the center, Jesus was the foundation. Jesus was the obsession, Jesus was the love of Paul's life. And is because Jesus could say that, he could say this, and to die is, everybody say that word with me, gain, and to die is gain.

Now that word gain is a powerful word in the Greek language, it literally means profitable. It literally means beneficial. Now, let's be honest, normally when we think of death being profitable, the only people that would we think that way are people that run funeral homes, right? I mean, we wouldn't think, well, I mean, the last thing any of us would think about when it comes to death is, it's profitable, it's beneficial, it's good. As a matter of fact, how do we always talk about death? We talk about it as a loss. So and so lost his life. So and so lost her husband, so and so lost his wife. So and so lost a child, we think about it as lost. And yet Paul said, "If your life is Christ, then your death is gained".

Now let me just stop and be honest. I know I'm climbing uphill right now. I mean, I know I'm in a hard slog trying to sell this to you, this is a very hard sell, because even though we're Christians, those of us who are, and we believe that when we die, we're going to heaven, we all believe that heaven is wonderful, we all believe that, right? I mean, if you're a Christian, you can say, "Oh yeah, heaven's a great place, wonderful place, it's gonna be great to get there". But let's be honest, we say, we believe that, but we spend most of our life doing everything we can from going there, work out, eat cardboard, drink water, take vitamins. Joe Lewis, the famous boxer once said this. He says, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die," it's true. Paul said, "I don't see it that way". He said to die is gain.

So here's what I'm gonna try to convince you of today. How is death a gain? Why in the world would Paul say, death is not a loss it's a gain? It's not a negative, it's a positive, it is a profit, it is a benefit. When we breathe our last breath and we lay this body down, it is a gain. Well, when you hear this message, you'll see why we should and can be always ready. 'Cause here's what I want us to think about today. You're a believer, you die today, how do you gain? What do you gain? Well, in this tremendous passage of scripture, Paul tells us of three things we immediately gain the moment we leave this earth, you ready? Number one, we gain the experience. We experience the personal presence of the son of God. The moment you and I breathe our last breath, we experience the personal presence of the son of God.

Now keep in mind everything that we're going to say, everything I'm going to preach to you right now, depends upon whether or not you can honestly say this, honestly believe this, honestly mean this and honestly confess this, all right? Here's the key, Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ". Now, if the gospel is true, if Jesus Christ, the son of God died on cross for the sins of the world, came back from the dead, if he really is king of Kings and Lord of Lords, then that automatically means two things about your life, and it means two things about my life, if that's true. First of all, Jesus alone is worthy of your life. Your job's not worthy of your life, your bank account's not worthy of your life. The house, the car, the real estate, the jewelry, the Rolex watches, all that good stuff that's not worthy of your life.

If Jesus is who he said he was, and did what he said he did, he alone is worthy of your life. It means something else. Your life is too valuable to give it to anything or everything else except Jesus. If Jesus is who he said he was, why would you even think about giving your life to anything or anywhere else? See, to be a Christian, this is what I want you to understand, to be a Christian doesn't just mean that Jesus is in your life, it doesn't just even mean that Jesus is in control of your life, it means he is your life, 24/7 he is your life. So lemme tell you what that means, that means people that know you and people that don't, people that just meet you, some way, somehow, if Christ is your life, they ought to be able to see and hear and feel and taste Jesus is the center, and Jesus is the circumference of your life.

Now, I know this was not just talk with Paul, I know he really meant this, so how do you know? Because he goes on to make this, in fact it's almost unbelievable he said it, but I know he meant it, this amazing statement, listen to what he said. He said, look, "If I'm to go on living in the body," that is, hey, if God has a plan for my life, if I'm not going to die, if eventually I'm gonna get outta jail, I'm not gonna lose my life, if that's true. Well, this will mean fruitful labor for me. He says, "Hey, I'm gonna go and preach the gospel, I'm gonna win people to Christ, I'm gonna disciple people", that's all well and good. He says, "Yet, what shall I choose"?

Now lemme just stop, let's be honest, what would you choose? I know what I'd choose, I want outta here, I wanna live longer, I've got some things I still wanna accomplish. He says, "I do not know, I'm torn between the two". Now did he makes this statement? "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far". I don't want you to raise your hands but if I were to ask you, don't raise your hands, but I wonder how many of you would raise your hands if I said to you right now, "Are you really ready to go to heaven"? I imagine most of you'd say, "Yeah, I really am ready to go to heaven". Paul, wasn't ready to go to heaven. He was revved up to go to heaven. His bags were packed. I mean, let's just face it, that's just different than where most of us are. If we're honest, here's what we would admit. And look, I mean, I'm with you.

Here's what most of us feel right now. Well, I'm willing to go to heaven, but I wanna stay here. I was with a guy yesterday over in Athens, and he expressed my sentiments exactly, he's in his 60s as well. And he said, "Doc, I'm ready to go to heaven, but I wanna win one more national championship first". I said, "Brother, I'm with you, I'm all over that, go doc, okay, I'm there". That's where we are. Well, I'm willing to go to heaven, but I wanna stay here. You know what Paul said, "It's amazing". I'm willing to stay here, but I want to go to heaven. And I've thought about that a long time, and I mean, there's a part of me says, "Paul, you really don't mean that," but he did, and I thought, "Man, how do you get to a place like that"? And it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I believe this is so true. Our desire to be with Jesus there is directly related to the degree that we love Jesus here, I believe that.

Our desire to be with Jesus there is directly related to the degree that we love Jesus here. And I'm gonna prove this to you. Shouldn't you always want to be with the person that you love more than anything else in the world, I mean really? I mean, humanly speaking, humanly speaking, of all the billions of people on this earth, right? You know that there are right now, and you said you can be with anybody right now you wanna be, I will always choose Teresa, always. You know why? 'Cause I love her the most. I love her more than anything in the world. Well shouldn't we want to love Jesus so much that somehow there's always this burning, passionate desire to be with him whenever he's ready to have us? And oh, by the way, here's something else, here's another reason what I loved Paul said, Paul didn't say, "I have a desire to go to heaven," he didn't say that. He said, "I have a desire to be with Jesus".

Now you said, "Well, pastor, what's the difference"? I mean, what's this way going to be with Jesus and going to heaven? One of the questions people ask me quite a bit, believe it or not. They'll say, "Hey, pastor, where is heaven? I mean, where exactly is heaven"? And it's an easy answer, you know what the answer is? Heaven is where Jesus is. Jesus is not where heaven is, heaven is where Jesus is. When I read my Bible, here's what I find out. What makes heaven, heaven, it's not golden streets, it's not pearl gates, what makes heaven, heaven, is Jesus. Jesus is not where heaven is, heaven is where Jesus is.

Lemme give an illustration. I've traveled quite a bit. And back in the day when I was president of some mass convention, I went on a long mission trip. There'd be times I was gone two weeks at a time 'cause I was traveling halfway around the world. I'd be gone two weeks at a time. Well, let me tell you, so when I returned and I walked into my house, I didn't hug my television and I didn't kiss my computer, there's one person I wanted to see, one person I wanted to hug, one person I wanted to kiss, and that's Jesus. See, the reason why I was so excited to come home is not because of what's in the home, but who's in the home. I wanted to see her, what makes heaven so wonderful is not what's in heaven it is who is in heaven and that's why death is profitable, that's why death is again.

And the reason why Paul said death is a plus, it's not a minus. He said, because the moment you draw your last breath here and you draw your first breath there, at that moment you're face to face, your nose to nose, you're eye to eye with Jesus, you're going to be in the presence of the son of God. And I wanna tell all of us beginning with me, if that doesn't fire you up, you ought to check your heart, man I'm gonna be in the presence of Jesus, but it gets even better if it can. He says, "Not only are you gonna experience the personal presence of the son of God". He said, "When you die, you're going to enter the powerful place of the kingdom of God". You're going to enter the powerful place of the kingdom of God.

Now, you're always ready to take a trip that you've never taken before. Even if you're going to a place that you've never been if you know where you're going, you know how the trip is going to wind up, you know where you're going to wind up, and so interesting to me and I do this too. How we talk about people who have died, right? We'll say things like he checked out, bought the farm, bit the dust, gave up the ghost, pulled the plug. I mean, doesn't that just make you wanna die? Think about all those phrases. I mean, death is the one right at the carnival nobody wants to take. Well, Paul used the word to totally describe death differently, here's what Paul said. Paul said, "I'm torn between the two". He didn't say, I desire to check out, bite the bullet, buy the farm, give up the ghost, pull the plug, he didn't say that. He said, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far". Paul said, let's think a moment about dying. What really is dying? Well, he says, "It's departing".

Now the word again is a beautiful word in the Greek language, it literally means to untie something or to lose something or to free something. For example, it was used when people were going from one place to another place. So Paul said, "You know what, when you die, you're not going to pie in the sky, you're going to a real place, that is so great, so magnificent, so super, that when you get there you'll wonder why didn't wanna get here sooner. Why was I dreading about this"? By the way that word has a multiplicity of meanings. For example, it's a nautical term, it a seafaring term, it was used by sailors when they would unloose a ship so the ship could set sail, which is good for a ship, because that's what a ship's built to do. A ship's not built to sit at a harbor. A ship is built to sail on the open seas.

And here's what Paul was saying, you weren't built for this earth. When you hit 20, and 30, and 40, and 50, and 60, and 70, and I got news for you, the wrinkles come and the belly sags. It's a reminder you weren't built for this earth. You were built for another place. You weren't built, this harbor is not your home. You were built to set sail. It was a nautical term, it was a military term. It was a word that was used when an army would pull up the stakes of a tent, so they could go home. You know, when a soldier goes overseas, we call it being deployed, right? But when their duty is over, we call it going home. Well, what Paul was saying was right now, we live in an earthly tent.

Matter of fact, the Bible describes our body as an earthly tent. And Paul says, "Don't put your stakes down too deeply, because you weren't meant for this tent". And when our battles in life are over, here's what happens, we just pull up stakes and we go home. But it was also a judicial term, it referred to a prisoner who is finally freed from jail. Now, I don't wanna sound morbid, but let's face it, in a way we're all in prison right now. You, you say, "What do you mean"? Well, we're in a prison called a body. I'm imprisoned in this body. 'cause if I live long enough, this body, in fact, it's already starting, this body will break down. This body will stop working. This body will eventually decay. And right now, we're all in prison, in a world that is full of sorrow, and death, and fears, and tears. And yet Paul said, but when you die, you are free from all of that. And this is why this is so big to understand.

See, this universe is not a republic. This universe is not a democracy. This universe is not a dictatorship. Do you know what this universe is according to God's word? It is a kingdom. And as children of the king, we were not meant to live in this place called earth. We were meant to live in a place called heaven. We were meant to live in a place called the kingdom of God. And it's the place unlike any other place you could even think about. You say, "How do you know that"? Well, first of all, it's a prepared place. You remember what Jesus said to the disciples just before he died? He said, "I'm going there," that is to the heaven, "I'm going there to prepare a place for you".

Jesus right now is not up there doing nothing. Jesus is at work. He's preparing a place for you. He's preparing a place for me. It is not only a prepared place, it's a perfected place. It's the one place in the universe, there are no tears, no grief, no graveyard, no hospital, no chemotherapy, no crying, no dying, no pain, no suffering. It is a place that is so fantastic, only God could think about it, we can only dream about it. It's a place that was built by the mind of God, built by the hand of God, conceived by the mind of God, and dear to the heart of God. And I believe this, again, with all my heart, when we finally get there, we're gonna go, "Why did I wanna put this off? What in the world was I thinking"?

There was a great Christian leader, you never probably heard of him, his name was Dr. George Sweeting, great man of God. I never got to meet him, got a lot of his books. He had a friend of his, he tells this story about a friend, who had a wife who was dying of cancer. And he really kind of dreaded going to make the visit, because he knew it was just gonna be doom, and gloom, and sad, and all that. But he knew he, you know, he needed to do it. So he finally, you know, took the time to go out to this man's home, and he said, "I really went in there to try to comfort them". And he said, "But to my amazement, I'm the one that got comforted".

And he said, here's what happened. He said, he walked into that door and he went back to her bedroom 'cause she was bedridden. And he expected to find doom, and gloom, and sadness, and sorrow, but he walked in and he said this husband was at perfect peace, and the wife had a smile on her face, and she was just full of joy. He looked at the husband. He said, "I don't understand it". He said, "What's going on here"? And the husband looked at him and he said, "George, let me ask you a question. Your wife, Bev," that was his wife's name, Bev. He said, "If you knew that Bev had been given an all expenses paid free tip trip to Hawaii, would you be happy for her"?

And of course, Dr Sweeting said, "Well, I'd be overjoyed. Of course, I'd be so happy that she's going to Hawaii". He smiled and he said, "Well, George, heaven is a lot better than Hawaii. Heaven is a lot better than Hawaii". See, when you understand that death is simply to depart, you enter into the powerful place of the kingdom of God, you are always ready. And then to drive the point home, there's one last thing that Paul says, if you'll believe this and keep this mind, it will keep you always ready to realize what happens when you depart. Because when you depart, now, watch this will be done, he says, "You enjoy the precious people of the family of God. You enjoy the precious people of the family of God".

See, we were born into a world full of people, right? We came into a world full of people. We'll leave a world full of people. Well, here's the good news. When you leave, you're gonna be leaving a world that is full of people, but you're going to be entering into a world that is full of people. Here's the difference. Not everybody on this earth is a part of my family. Not everybody on this earth is a part of your family, right? I've got Thanksgiving, we've got, I think 43 people coming to my house for Thanksgiving. You're not invited, I can't get anymore in my house, sorry. We got 43 people coming to my house. They're family, it's my family, okay? So we invite our family. But not everybody on this earth is my family. But the moment you enter into the kingdom of God, guess what? They are all your family.

As a matter of fact, they are your true family. I don't know whether you know what it's like to have a famous ancestor, or to have someone related to you that you never dreamed of. I've got a very distant relative, and he's got a hobby, and his hobby is to trace down ancestors. I didn't know this man was a distant cousin, he found out who I was. So about two years ago, he came to my house, and he gave me this big, thick document. It was all the research he had done on my family. He traced my family back hundreds and hundreds of years, it was pretty cool thing. Well, before I would open it up, he said, "Hey, hey," he said, "Call me doc". He said, "Hey doc". He said, "I gotta let you on a secret before you look at that". He said, "Did you know that John Adams and John Quincy Adams were our cousins"?

The two president of the United States. "Did you know that John Adams and John Quincy Adams were our cousins"? My first question was, "Well, no, but, did they leave us in the will"? I mean, that's what I wanted to do, but I mean, I have to admit, I thought that's a pretty cool thing to realize that in my bloodline, I have two presidents of the United States. I mean, that's kind of pretty cool, and I'm not trying to brag about it, it's just kind of a cool thing. But then as I got thinking about it, I think, "Wait a minute. Man, I've got in my spiritual bloodline, Moses, and Abraham, and Isaiah, and Paul, and Peter, and James, and John".

I want you to listen to something that Jesus said, that's true of everybody who enters into the kingdom of God, listen to what Jesus said, "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west," now watch this, "and they'll take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven". And I got to thinking about all these famous people that I've read about in the Bible. People who've had books written about them, and movies made about them, and songs composed about them. I'm a part of that family.

And I just, I'm not trying to be funny when I say this, or cute, but can you just imagine sitting down, just talking to Moses saying, "Hey, Mo, what was it like, tell me what it was really like when you walked through that Red Sea, had that raging wall of water on each side, and you were being hunted down by the Egyptian army. What was that like"? Or to sit out with David and say, "Okay, David, let me ask you, take me back. You're that little shepherd boy, you hadn't even started shaving yet. You're facing a giant that's nine feet, six inches tall, and all you've got is a slingshot and a few rocks".

And the question I wanna ask David is this, "David, come on now, who are you betting on that day? I mean, tell the truth". Or, "Hey, Paul, take me through that Damascus road conversion. I mean, what was it like? You're on a mission against Jesus. You're killing Christians' right and left. You're trying to put out the fire of Christianity with both feet. What was it like to see that light? And to hear that voice, and how everything changed"?

You say, "Well, yeah, pastor, that'll be pretty cool". Well, let's get more personal. So how about that son or that daughter that you had that died at childbirth? Or you miscarried? How about that grandson or that granddaughter that died of leukemia when they were three years old? How about that mom or that dad that was taken from you when you were such a small child, so small, you don't even remember who they were? How about those grandparents, I have two, that you never got to meet?

Over 1300 years ago, there was a church historian by the name of The Venerable Bede, you probably never heard of him, but he wrote these beautiful words, I want you to listen to them. He said, "The great multitude of dear ones is they're expecting us, a vast and mighty crowd of parents, brothers, and children secure now in their own safety, anxious yet for our salvation, long that we may come to their right and embrace them, to that joy that will be common to us and to them. To that pleasure expected by our fellow citizens, as well as ourselves, if it be a pleasure to go to them, let us eagerly and covetously hasten on our way, that we may soon be with them, and soon be with Christ".

You may remember, I majored in accounting in college. And I remember when I took accounting 101, my first accounting class, one of the first things you had to learn was the difference between a debit and a credit. It took me a while to kind of get that straight, 'cause it sounds like should be offset, but it's not, right? A debit is when money is coming out of your account, and a credit is when money is coming into your account. And then another thing we had to ... assets and liabilities, right? One refers to a future economic benefit, and one refers to a future economic loss. So let me ask you an accounting question right now. Just be honest, if you were to die today, not tomorrow, not next week, today, my simple question to you is this, what would death be for you? Would it be a debit or credit? Would it be an asset or a liability? Well, it all depends on this.

So let's go back to something we said earlier, just be totally honest, just tell the truth. I want you right now, just tell y'all you need to know about you, where you are, what you are, if you're where you need to be. If you had not heard this message, and you'd walked into this room. And somebody handed you a sheet of paper and said, "Fill in the blank with the first thing that comes to your mind. For to me to live is, blank". What would you have said? 'Cause if some of you were really honest, some of you would put family. Some of you would put money. Some of you would put business. Well, if what Paul said is true, if you put anything in there except Jesus, then to die is lost.

So for example, if you live for money, I got news, when you die, you'll leave it all behind. If you look for fame, I got news for you, when you die, you're gonna be forgotten. If you live for family, unless you and your family know Jesus, either you will never see them again, or you will wish you didn't. ' Cause it doesn't matter if the most famous celebrities and the greatest dignitaries in the world attend your funeral. It doesn't matter how many people get up and tell what a great person you were. It doesn't matter if you're buried in the most beautiful grave site on this planet, it doesn't matter. If your life is not Jesus, when you die, it is a total loss. "Yeah, but I made this much money. Yeah, but I built this beautiful house. Yet, but I had this fame. Yet, but I was accepted by these people". Yes, but... Doesn't matter. If your life is not Jesus, your life is a total loss.

So I wanna get super practical, and we're gonna say amen, and we'll be done. Paul said, "For me to live is Christ". Now, some of you might try to fake it, "So that's what I'd say". Yeah, pastor I'd say that, "For to me to live is Christ". Well, let's just understand. That's not just coming into a building an hour on Sunday and check it off a box and going back to your life as it is, and then you kind of do your thing. It's not what that means. It's not just being baptized, drying off, and then going out there and living the way everybody else is living. And it certainly isn't being religious some of the time and giving Jesus lip service the rest of the time.

If Jesus is your life, that means, very simply, you live Jesus 60 minutes, every hour, 24 hours every day, seven days, every week, 52 weeks every year, and every year for the rest of your life. And I've said this to you before, and I'm gonna say it again, so you just got to get used to it. Look at your calendar, and look at your checkbook. And then you tell me, is Christ your life? I don't say this to brag. Matter of fact, if what I'm about to say, you'd say, "Well, you ought to do that because you're the pastor of the church". You're exactly right, I agree. You look at my calendar, and you look at my checkbook, you know my life is Christ. I don't say that to brag, and I'm not saying that's always that way, I'm not perfect. Tomorrow night, pray for me.

Bruce and I are going to visit a couple that visited our church three weeks ago. Sweet couple. Three weeks ago was the first time this young man had ever been in church in his life, ever. Former Marine, fought for our country. Not even sure what church is all about. Gave the first dollar he ever gave to a church to our church three weeks ago. And when I met him and his fiance out there there three weeks ago, my heart just went out to him. So burdened for him. And I said, "Man, can I come visit with you"? And they're gonna let me come tomorrow night.

You say, "Well, you oughta do that, you're the pastor". No, I oughta do that because Christ is my life. And he talked about this Christmas gift for Jesus' red box, Christ's not gonna give a very generous gift in that box. "Well, you ought to, you're the pastor". No, I ought do it 'cause Christ is my life. So this is the hard question. And you just need to face up, be honest, let's just tell it like it is. Either Christ is your life or He is not, there's no in between. If He's not, I wanna ask you this, what is keeping Him from becoming your life? Maybe you've not even given Him your life. Or maybe you've given Him a part of your life, but not all of your life. Maybe it is your love for your business, or even your love for your family, or even your love for your lifestyle, or even love your love for your bank account. Even your love for the stuff that you think you own, which we said last week, you don't, I'm just simply saying this to you.
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