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James Merritt - What Life Am I Going to Live?

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    James Merritt - What Life Am I Going to Live?

If you're joining us today, we're in a series that we've been calling "What Say You". And it's built around what I believe are the three greatest questions every human being, whether you realize it or whether you don't, you have to answer in this life. Now, we talked about the first question. The first question is, what lord am I going to love? And you said, "I don't love any lord". No, everybody loves something greater than themselves. It may be even themselves. Everybody worships something. Even the atheist worships something. It may be his atheism, it may be his arrogance, it may be his ego, it may be the fact that he gets to do whatever he wants to do, and he doesn't feel bad about it. It doesn't matter. Everybody worships something. And what we said last week was, according to Jesus, the greatest commandment of all is that we do love the God of the Bible.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of Jesus Christ, the God and Father of Jesus. And he said the greatest commandment is we love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. 'Cause everybody worships something. And I really believe that the answer to that question, What Lord am I going to love?, is actually the question that gives the answer to this question. What life am I going to live? Because whatever life you choose to live, believe it or not, will be determined by the Lord that you love. So if your god is your job, you're gonna give your life to your job. If your god is per popularity, you're gonna give your life to doing everything you can to make everybody like you.

If your God is sex, you're gonna give your life to seeing how many men or women you can sleep with. So, whatever lord you love is gonna determine the life that you're going to live. And one of the biggest and greatest metaphysical questions that has been asked throughout history, is this question. We've asked it since the first person was born. Is there life after death? And if you don't think you ask that question, get older and you will. When you begin to see the end of the runway, and you begin to realize, "You know what? I'm going the way of everybody else. I'm not gonna be here forever," the question comes, is there life after death? Well, I think there's an even bigger question than that one. I think the bigger question is, is there life after birth? I'm not consuming life after death, I wanna talk about life after birth. And I don't mean just existence.

One of my favorite movies is the movie "Braveheart". And in that movie, William Wallace makes a great statement. I don't know if you remember it or not, but William Wallace said this. He said, "Every man dies, but not every man lives". I believe that is so true. There are a lot of people today. Oh, they're living. I mean, they breathe, they eat, they sleep, they walk, they talk, but they're not really living. In fact, when you ask people today, particularly Christians, if I were to ask most of you in this room right now, "So why did Jesus come?", you would give the classic answer. "Well, he came to die for our sins and give us eternal life".

And that's true. I'm not arguing that at all. However, let me challenge you with something. Jesus did not come to earth just to give us life eternal. Jesus came to give us life immediate. He didn't just came to give us life eternally, he came that we might live immediately. He didn't just come so that we could go to heaven. Jesus came so that we could live on earth before we get to heaven. So, Jesus understood. Look, Jesus knew that life is more than breathing and eating and sleeping and drinking and working and partying and dying. And Jesus said, "I didn't come just to give you life after death, I came to give you life after birth".

You say, "Well, where do you get that idea"? Well, I get it out of something Jesus said in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John. And he was talking to his disciples, and he made this incredible statement. He said, "The thief," we'll come back and talk about who that is in a moment. He said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly".

Now, in the Greek language, there are two words for life. One is the word you'll be a little bit familiar with, is the word bios. It gives us the word 'biology,' B-I-O-S. And that's what it means. It refers to just flesh and blood, bone existence. Just living, breathing, it is the kind of life that we share with animals. That's one word. But there's another word in the Greek language for life. It is the word 'zoe,' Z-O-E. It gives us the word 'zoology.' Bios is physical life, zoe is spiritual life. You measure bios in quantity. You live one year, two years, a hundred years, three years, four years. It's measured in quantity. But zoe is measured in quality. Jesus said, "I didn't just come to give years to your life. I came to give life to your years. I didn't come just to give you bios. I came to give you zoe". And you think about it. Jesus is both eternal and creator. And so the kind of life Jesus is talking about is not manmade, it is God-made.

You know, when somebody says, "I've kind of made a pretty good life for myself". Well, that's all you can do. You can make a pretty good life for yourself. You can't have abundant life, you can't have real life. you cannot have a life that God intended you to have, unless God gives it to you. This is a God-made life. As a matter of fact, if what Jesus said is true, this is the kind of life that really didn't completely exist on earth until he came, until he was born, and until he lived. So in other words, he made this claim. Here's what he was saying in this one text. He said, "If you don't know me, if you don't have me, if you don't love me, if you don't worship me, if you're not surrendered to me", well, you may walk and talk and eat and breathe and sleep and drink, you really don't have life. "I came that you might have life and have it abundantly".

Now, we gotta understand what Jesus meant by 'abundant life.' But before you could understand what he meant, let's clarify what he did not mean. Abundant life is not found in stuff or money or possessions or financial security. And you say, "Well, how do you know that"? Well, when Jesus called his disciples to follow him. Remember, he's talking to his disciples. When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, if you were remember, what did they do? All of them had one thing in common. They left everything behind. Everything. Now, when he called them to promise them, he said, "Look, I'm gonna give you an abundant life". But he never offered them financial security, a 401k, Medicare, physical comfort or retirement plan, health insurance, there were certainly no health and wealth gospel. Matter of fact, he didn't even promise them a long life, because if you know their dirty little secret, they all died relatively young. They didn't live a very long time.

So you look back now and you say, "Okay, now I know what he meant. The abundant life, the only life worth living, is a life lived in, through, and for Jesus. The abundant life, the only life worth living, is a life lived in, through, and for Jesus". But what does that mean? What does it mean? What does it look like, to have the abundant life? Well, the only thing I know to do, is let's go back to the disciples, 'cause they're the ones that live with him. They're the ones that learn from him. And so we're gonna look back at the three years they spent with him, and let's ask ourselves, "Okay, based on what they knew and what they had and what they experienced it, what are the marks of the abundant life"?

What is the kind of life that I should want to live, and you should want to live? Well, as I thought about it, let me just share with you three quick ones. First of all, I wanna live my life enjoying the presence of Jesus. I wanna live my life enjoying the presence of Jesus. Now, let's think about what did those disciples do every single day of their life for three years? Every single day of every month of every year for three years, they enjoyed the presence of Jesus almost without a break. 365 days a year, 24/7, three years. Think about what they did for three years. They walked with Jesus. They talked with Jesus. They ate with Jesus. They traveled with Jesus. They prayed with Jesus. They listened to his teachings. They watched his actions. They followed in his footsteps. Nonstop interaction. Morning, supper, dinner evening, rainy, dry, didn't matter. 1000 days they're in the presence of Jesus.

Now you may think, "Man, I wish I could have done that". I got something better for you. You can do it. You can absolutely do it. Amazingly, we can do the very same thing every day of the month, every month of the year, every month until we leave this life and enter into eternal life, which simply means being in the full presence of God for all eternity, every single day, we could spend it in the presence of Jesus. As a matter of fact, let me give you this thought. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you always go with God. I don't care where you go. I don't care how far it is. I don't care how long you stay. I don't care if you're by yourself. If you have a relationship with Jesus, you always go with God. And can you tell me anything that is greater in life than knowing that you always go with God and God always goes with you?

When I got in my car and drove to church this morning, I was just telling the Lord. I said, "Lord, I'm so thankful, I take it for granted. I'm so thankful you're in this car with me. I'm so thankful I get out of the car, you'll be with me. I'm so thankful I walk onto that platform to preach, you'll be with me. I'm so thankful when I go back to my house, you'll be with me. And I'm so thankful when I draw my last breath, you will still be with me," because "everywhere you go, you go with him". What's greater than knowing that God always goes with you? What's greater than knowing that every time I open your word, you're gonna speak to me? What's greater than knowing every time I open my mouth, you're going to listen to me? You know, you may not always be with the people that you love the most, but I will tell you this, the one that loves you the most will always be with you. 'Cause if you have a relationship with Jesus, he goes with you everywhere you go.

You know, even with Jesus was about to ascend him to heaven, and the disciples thought, "Well, he's leaving. We're not gonna be with him anymore," he says something to them they probably didn't understand at first. He said this, "Surely I'm with you always to the very end of the age". we take that for granted. We don't think a lot about it. But now he's about to go back. They watch him leave with the clouds. He's gone, but he says, "No, I'm gonna be with you. You're not going with me, but I will be with you, even to the end of the age". How is that possible? Because unlike the disciples, no, we're not in the physical presence of Jesus, but think about this. Think about this. Go back to when the disciples were with Jesus. When they were not with Jesus, physically, they were apart from Jesus.

So there would be times Jesus would go off by himself to pray, and they wouldn't be with Jesus. And there would be times that he might leave them behind to go do something, and they would not be with Jesus. So when they were not with Jesus, they were apart from Jesus. But here's the wonderful thing. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is never apart from us. When you give your life to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live in you. So Jesus never leaves you. In fact, so the point is we have it even better than the disciples did. We've got God's unending presence. We've got God's undivided attention. You don't have to stand in line to meet with him. You don't have to make an appointment. You don't have to buy a ticket. We're always in his presence. And just because he's not here physically, does not mean he isn't here.

One ancient Greek put it this way, "Touching his human nature, Jesus is no longer present with us; by touching his divine nature, he is never absent from us". God's never shut in. God's never shut up. God's never shut out from us. All times, we go through... Listen, there are times you may feel lonely. Some of you last year lost your spouse. Or maybe you lost your mom or you lost your dad or you lost a loved one. And there may be times that you feel lonely, and you may feel God is absent. But the abundant life is life where you know God is always present. I may be lonely, but I'm never alone. And I'm telling you, I want a life where I enjoy the presence of Jesus. That's what they did. Well, what else did they have? What else did they enjoy? What else did these disciples experience in those three years? Where every one of them would've looked back when Jesus left and what every one of those disciples would've said, "Man, for three years, what a life. What an abundant life that we have".

Well, number one, I wanna live my life enjoying the presence of Jesus. Number two, I wanna live my life trusting the provision of Jesus. I wanna live my life trusting the provision of Jesus. Now, I want you to think about this. Jesus calls, 12 men. They were all very, very different. You know, I think about our staff, all our staff, we're all very, very different. We've got, you know, different abilities. We've got different gifts. We've got different interests. We've got different passions. And the same ways through the disciples. They weren't carbon copies. They came from different backgrounds. Some were fishermen. Some were tax collectors. Some were freedom fighters. They came from different walks of life. They had different professions. They had different interests. They had different ambitions.

But if you ever thought about this, every disciple had one thing in common from the moment they met Jesus. One thing. Every single one of those disciples left everything behind. It's really an amazing thing. They didn't take one thing where they say, "Let me go back. Let me get some extra cash. Let me make sure I've got some extra clothes". They didn't take one thing. The moment, I think about Matthew at that tax collector's booth, Jesus comes to him and says, "Matthew, will you follow me"? He just literally walks off his job. No money. Nothing in his pockets. No packed bags. They left everything in order to follow Jesus. And yet you read, and you follow them for three years. They never missed a meal. They never went hungry. They always had a place to sleep. They never lacked for clothing. When they met Jesus, and they gave everything up, they only had two things going for them.

Number one, they knew Jesus had called them to follow him. They knew that. And then they just assumed, "Okay, you're gonna meet our needs". And for the next three years, though they didn't realize it, probably took it for granted, they learned something, wherever Jesus leads, he meets the needs. Wherever Jesus guides, he provides. I have seen that all of my life. I saw it when I went to a college there was no way I could afford to go to, where my mom and dad could not literally give one dime, 'cause it was way too expensive. I saw it when I went to seminary. Newly married, head back surgery, couldn't work, a hundred dollars in the bank, no job. I've seen it time and time and time and time again, looking back on my life. Where you lead, you meet the needs. Where you guide, you provide.

Now wanna be very, very, very, very clear. I am not promising anybody that if you will follow Jesus, he will give you everything you want. Read my lips. No, I'm not promising you he'll give you the Mercedes, and the Rolex watch, and the million-dollar mansion. And as a matter of fact, to be very honest with you, when I look back on my life, can I tell you one of the things I am so thankful for? I am so thankful he didn't give me everything I wanted. I am so thankful he didn't give me everything that I asked for, because, "But just as the shepherd is completely responsible for feeding sheep and leading sheep," here's what Jesus has promised. And it's all he's promised. "I will meet your needs. I will meet your needs. I will give you what I know that you need". And all he asks for us, when we follow him, is just one thing. This is all he asks for. "Trust me to keep my promise. If you'll follow me, I'll give you everything you need. Trust me to keep my promise".

Now, I wanna tell you a true story. I read a story about two weeks ago. It's fascinating. This true story. Little boy, his name was Jimmy Wayne. Jimmy Wayne never knew his dad. His mom was in prison. She was released from jail when he was 12 years old. She took up with a man who was a bum, drug dealer, troublemaker. For one solid year, they lived in the backseat of a car. This 12 year old boy didn't know his dad, mom had been in prison, doesn't know this guy she's sleeping with and living with. And for one year, they lived out of the back of a car. One day, they drove Jimmy to a parking lot in Pensacola, Florida, dumped him off at a bus station, with no money, and drove off and left him. 13 years old. And the only relative he knew, the only person he thought cared about him, leaves him in the parking lot of a bus station. He's got no home. He's got no family. He's got no friends. He's got no food. He's got no money. He leaves the parking lot, and just starts walking through neighborhoods. He's walking through this neighborhood, and he's spotted an older man who was working in a garage with wood shop.

So, he walked up to the man and he just said, "Sir, do you have any work I could do, at all"? 13 years old. The man immediately figured out that this boy needed help, so he decided to give the boy a chance. So he said, "You know, my name is Russell". He called for his wife. Her name was Be, and he asked her to come to the garage. And she talked to him and so they had a lawnmower. And they said, "Son, do you know how to cut grass"? He said, "No, sir. I don't know how to do anything". He said, I'll tell you what he said, "We're gonna teach you how to use the lawnmower, as I'll let you cut my grass every week".

So they gave Jimmy a job. So for several weeks he cut that couple's grass, and he lived on the $20 a week they paid him to cut that grass. Well, some time passed, and so Be finally came up to him and she said, "Jimmy, where do you live"? Well, he lied because he was afraid that if they found out he was homeless, that they'd fire him. Well, she finally convinced him to tell her the truth. He said, "I've been sleeping outside. I've been sleeping where I could sleep. I sleep under bridges. I sleep under trees". And so she said, "You're not doing that anymore". So they took him into their home. He was given his own bedroom, his own bathroom, his own chair at the dinner table. He had every need met that he needed. Everything he needed, shelter, food, clothing, they gave him all that, he had everything he needed. But there's one problem.

They noticed he never unpacked his bag. He had a plastic bag full of clothes. And he always kept that plastic bag right next to his bed. For days and days and days, that plastic bag was still on that floor full of clothes, because he knew in his heart, "You're gonna change your mind, and you're gonna kick me out of your house. And I'm gonna be ready to go when you do". You see, here was his problem. He was in the house, but he wasn't in the home. He was with the family, but he didn't realize he was in the family. So one day they called Jimmy to dinner, and they sat on either side of him and they took him by the hand. And this is what they said to him. They said, "Jimmy, if you ever leave here, it will be because you chose to leave here. We are your family and this is your home".

And from that moment on, that boy was a change boy. He was a happy boy. He was full of joy. He literally became the son they never had, for one reason. He said, "I believe you when you tell me you're gonna meet every need that I have". There are people... Listen, some of you're in this room right now, you're in the house, but somehow you've never gotten in the home. You think it's up to you to meet your needs. You think you're the one in charge of your fate. You think you're the one paying your bills. No, you're not. You're gonna get to heaven one day and look back, you're gonna realize it was God that gave you everything you had, it was God that provided every need that you had.

Because you see, one day, you're gonna wake up in the morning and realize, "You know what? I even got through last night because God gave me life. I'm alive this morning because God gave me every breath that I breathe, and every step that I take". And all God ever says to us every single day we're alive is, "Will you just trust me to keep my promise? I will provide all your needs, according to my riches and glory in Christ". I wanna tell you something, that is abundant life, to know the God that can save me, the God that loves me, is a God that can care for me and meet every single need that I have.

I wanna live my life trusting the provision of Jesus. I wanna live my life enjoying the presence of Jesus. But then there's one last thing. I wanna live my life fulfilling the purpose of Jesus. I wanna live my life fulfilling the purpose of Jesus. You know why Tom Brady has never found the more-than-this? You know why Tom Brady doesn't realize, "Yeah, you're right, Tom. You were put here for a greater purpose than to throw a football, and win a trophy, and marry a beautiful woman, and make a lot of money". I mean, just look at these disciples. Now, by the way, you may say, "Yeah... you know, all those disciples died a pretty violent death, except one, and starved to death". Yeah. "Yeah, and they didn't really live a long time either". No, they really didn't live a long time. But why do you think I'm standing up here right now talking about 11 men that lived 2000 years ago? Because they lived the abundant life.

"Well, they didn't live very long," but man, they lived deep. And man, they lived wide. And we're sitting here today because they fulfilled the purpose that God had for them. So I'm gonna let you in on a real truth you need to hear today. The only thing that can give your life real value is a purpose that is greater than, and will outlive that life. The only thing that will give your life real value is a purpose that is greater than, and will outlive your life. There was a young boy, a little boy, and his dads in the military. And he just gone off to war. And he really wanted his dad to come home safely, his dad been gone about three months. He wrote his dad a letter and it said this. This is so cute. "Dear daddy, I love you and I hope you live all your life. Dear daddy, I love you and I hope you live all of your life".

You know what? That's what God wants for you. That's what God wants for me. From the time you came outta your mother's womb, to the time they put you in the dirt, you know what God wants for you? He wants you to live all of your life. Jesus came, I came to give you not just life, but abundant life. And I want you to live all of your life. If you don't think this is a big deal, let me tell you something. The great questions confronting us on the 21st century, the same questions been in confronting us since time immemorial. And those questions will never end. If this world lasts another 21 centuries or 31 centuries, it'll still be the same thing. Still same questions. "Where did I come from"? "Why am I here"? And, "Where am I going"? Same three questions. Never change. "Who am I"? "Where did I come from"? "Why am I here"? "Where am I going"?

I read, about a week ago, somebody said the purpose, the issue of purpose will be the driving philosophical and religious issue for the 21st century. There's a scholar that you may not have heard of. His name's Nigel Brush. He's a brilliant thinker. He put it so perfectly. He said, "There's only two ways you're going to answer life's biggest questions". He's right about this, by the way. There's no way in between. There's no one... Well, how many ways can you answer the questions I just raised? "Why am I here"? "Where did I come from"? "Where am I going"? He says there's only two ways you're gonna answer those questions. I want you to listen to what he said. "Only two answers have come to dominate the modern world. One is that humans were purposely created by God in the past, meant to serve him in the present, and have the opportunity to dwell Him forever in the future. The alternate answer states that random processes created humans, that we have no particular purpose in the present, and that we'll cease to exist when we die".

Now, if you accept the second line of thinking, which by the way, wake up, smell the coffee, is what your kids are being taught in school, is what they're being taught in the universities, and it's the narrative of the earth and the planet and the culture in which we live. But if you accept the second line of thinking, you're not gonna like this, but you have to conclude four things. You don't have a choice. You have to conclude four things. Number one, there's no grand purpose to our existence. I don't know why I'm here. You don't know why you're here. Nobody can figure it out. "So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you're gonna die".

Number two. Life is ultimately meaningless. Your life has no more significance than a cockroach. And neither does mine. Number three. We're all alone in the universe. I mean, even if there are aliens out there, what does it matter? And number four. When we die, that's the end of us. Now, I don't know what you call that. And I'm not the smartest guy in the room, but I sure don't call that abundant life. I sure don't call it that. Now, boy, that really makes me want to get up in the morning. That really fires me up because in that same verse that we quoted, "I've come to give you life and give it more abundantly," you remember the first half of that verse? He said, "The thief has come to kill and steal and destroy".

Well, who's the thief? He's talking about the one called Satan. I just wanna say a word to all of you in this room under 21 years of age, some of you kids down here, and some of you, young people. Let me just... that's you own secret. Satan wants to rob you of the life that God wants you to live, and he wants to ruin the life that you have. I'm gonna say that again. Satan wants to rob you of the life that God wants you to live, and he wants to ruin the life that you have. Jesus wants to give you the life that God wants you to have, and he wants to give you the real life that you need. So let's just wrap this up. Yeah, it's true, medical science can add years to your life, but it cannot add life to your years. But there's one who died on the cross and came back from the dead to give you the life, the only life, in my opinion, worth living. So here's the great news. I hope this will make it worth coming to church today. You can get up every day and you can say this, and it works.

Lord, your life is my life. There is not a problem I will face today you can't solve. There is not a question that I will be asked today that you can't answer. You will be with me wherever I go. You're gonna provide for every need that I have. And I know at the end of the journey, I can die happy. I can die at peace, because I have fulfilled your purpose for my life. And I stand up here, unabashed, unashamed, unafraid, to tell you that's the only life worth living. And through Jesus, we all can live that life.

Would you pray with me? With heads bowed, with eyes closed. The life that you live will be determined by the Lord that you love. Did you hear me? The life that you live will be determined by the Lord that you love. That's why real life never begins. Real life never begins until you love Jesus with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, all of your strength. That's when life begins. My life began as a nine-year-old boy. Has your life began? It hasn't started. You haven't even started living. You haven't even come close to living until you know Jesus, and love Jesus, and you've surrendered to Jesus, and you've accepted Jesus, and you live for Jesus. So whether you're watching right now online, or you're in this room, our simple question to you is this, have you experienced the abundant life that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ? If not, why not? And if not, why not today? So why don't you just say something like this to Jesus:

Lord, I've been existing, but not living. And I realize that sin, my sin, is robbing me of real life. I need a savior. I need you to come into my life today and forgive me of my sins. I need you to make me a new person. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe God raised you from the dead. I believe you are alive right now. And where I'm sitting, where I'm standing, where I'm driving, where I am this moment, I repented of my sins. I turn away from my sins. And I surrender my life to you. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for coming into my heart. Thank you for giving me real life. And now, Lord, for the rest of my life, I live the abundant life through you, and with you, and for you.

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