Matt Sturdevant: In order to do something significant, like take out the Death Star, it's absolutely crucial that everybody knows the objective. You've gotta make sure people know where they're supposed to be, when they're supposed to be there, and what they're supposed to do. There are countless scenes in the movies of this pre-mission briefing, where they gather everybody together, make sure we're on the same page, before the action starts. Good morning. I'm Matt Sturdevant, and I'm the executive pastor here at Hope.
Today, we're beginning a brand new series called the First Five. In this series, over the next five weeks, we're gonna take a look at some of the big steps or the big components that are involved in our journey with Jesus. As we kick off the series today, this first message, this is sorta gonna be our pre-mission briefing, where we're gonna look at walking with Jesus, what all is involved in walking with Jesus. You know, when we begin a new year, it's only natural that we evaluate, how did the last year end up, maybe what happened that was good that we wanted? Where did we fall short? Then we begin looking towards this new year, making plans, setting some goals, and setting some objectives. This first message is going to be our orientation to the new life that's possible in walking with Jesus.
Now, with a group this size it's only expected that collectively we are going to represent a wide variety of places in a spiritual journey. Some of us have been walking with Jesus for a long time, decades. Some of us have maybe more recently started walking with Jesus, say six months or less. Some of us here today, we do not yet follow Jesus. Maybe you're here this morning and you're checking things out. It's a new year, and you sort of sense this need to connect with God, or you have got some questions, because life didn't quite go the way you were wanting an expecting, and maybe God can bring some new life and some fulfillment to you. Or maybe, and it's okay if this is you, maybe you're here because your friend will not stop asking you to come to church, and if you go ahead and do it on the first Sunday of the year, they will leave you alone moving forward.
Regardless of why you're here, if you've been following Jesus for a while or if you're here exploring things, I think you'll find today helpful, and you'll get a pretty good picture, especially if you're here just kind of checking things out, get a pretty good picture of what does it mean to really walk with Jesus. If you're exploring a church or just getting started in walking with Jesus, I hope today gives you some clarity, maybe gives you a jumpstart in this new walk that you have.
Now, if you're here and you've been walking with Jesus for a while though, there's a temptation when we have a message like we're gonna have today, and the temptation is to sort of sit back and just say, "I got this. I've been walking with Jesus for years. I got it. I know. I know. I know." We sort of check out mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If we do that though, there's a danger. There's a danger that we can miss something that God has for us, because if you're a follower of Jesus, we're talking about the most important thing today, and that is our walk with Jesus. That should get you up in the morning. That should excite you. Can you tell I'm excited? So, don't just sit back and check out, but I really want you to engage, and I want you to hear what's there.
I have an iPhone. Any iPhone users here? A couple of you willing to admit it. All right. I've got one. I've had one for several years now. I know how to use my iPhone, but every once in a while a friend will show me something about my phone, or maybe I'll see a video, and that kind of re-energizes me and excites me, and I've got this new, fresh perspective like, hey, I've got this piece of technology in my pocket, and I know how to use it better. I'm hoping, my prayer for you, if you've been walking with Jesus for a while, my prayer for you is that today the lord will use this time to refresh you and to re-energize you as you move forward in this new year. Everybody's got a listening guide there in your program if you wanna follow along.
You know, today is January 6th. We're just six days into the new year, and there's so much to hope for, so much to expect, as we have this new year, but increasingly we are living in a world that's growing further and further from reality. You see that? You look around, and it's just like, what is going on? Well, one of the realities that we just cannot escape is the fact that we live in a broken world, and we have a broken relationship with God, our creator. But what caused that? How did we get there? Our decision to go life our own way, to do what we want, apart from what God wants, that's how we got there. That's how things got broken. The problem started near the beginning, shortly after God created everything in his perfection. The problem continues today. We continually just keep going our own way, doing what we want.
When we go our own way, when we do what God says not to do, that's rebellion. The Bible calls that sin. Bad news is we have a problem, but the good news is there's a solution. We don't have to stay this way. There's actually a solution that provides a new kind of a life. That solution is found in the person of Jesus, who he is, and what he's done, and what it means for us. When we yield our lives to Jesus, there are some things that happen, sort of this shift that takes place. Some things happen immediately, and then more things happen over time, as we walk with him, and we learn, and we grow, and we understand more and more what that means.
But the issue, the core issue of yielding our life to Jesus is really there's a question there. There's a question behind it, and the question is who am I gonna follow? Who is going to be in charge of my life? You could say it this way. You could say who's gonna be the boss or the management director of my life? That's the core issue here. Today, as we're looking at an orientation to this new life, I wanna break down sort of five parts of what it means to yield our lives to Jesus. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, when we yield our lives to him, our destiny changes forever. Our destiny changes forever. Colossians 1:13 and 14 says, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins."
The moment, the instant that we yield our lives to Jesus our destiny changes forever. There was an interesting word used there in that passage. It's rescued. If you have to be rescued, you're in a dire situation. You can't get out of that situation on your own or you would have. So, it takes outside intervention. Someone else has to come in and rescue you to get you out of this dire situation. So, why did we need to be rescued? Well, today is our pre-mission briefing. Today is our orientation to walking with Jesus, and I wanna take a moment and I wanna look at the message of the gospel. I wanna do it through a set of verses that we find in the New Testament Book of Romans.
There's a sequence of verses that you can string together that's commonly referred to as the Roman Road. In this passage we really see laid out for us what's the problem? What's the solution? What does it mean for us? So, that's what I wanna take a look at with you for just a moment. I wanna get us all on page one of the orientation manual. Okay? You've got another handout that says "The Roman Road," at the top. You can follow along. What we see is that there's five statements that are supported by at least one verse. So, starting out the statement, "We have all sinned. As it is written, none is righteous. No. Not one. No one understands. No one seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become worthless. No one does good. Not even one. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." See that word all there? That means everyone. There's no exceptions about, "Well, not me." No. Everyone means everyone. It's everyone. That all is everyone.
Next statement, "Christ died for us anyway, but God showed his love for us, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. While we were still sinners, still opposed to God, Christ died for us." Number three, "Sin leads to eternal death, for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ, Jesus, our lord." If you have a job, you work. You get wages. You get money. The wages of our sin is death. That's what we earned because of our sin. But if we choose to follow Christ, we will be saved, because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is the lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Then this is my favorite part here. "For everyone who calls on the name of the lord will be saved." So, just like all have sinned and that all included everyone, now this is everyone who calls on the name of the lord will be saved. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our lord, Jesus Christ. So, we were once opposed to God. We didn't have peace with him. Now, through Jesus we have been brought back into a peaceful, loving relationship with God, our father. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, Jesus.
Then the last statement, "God's love will stay with us, for I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ, Jesus, our lord." Whether you're hearing this for the very first time or the 100th time, this is the good news. This is the good news. You see, because of my sin, I had a destiny that was apart from God. I was gonna be apart from God forever. There was nothing that I could do on my own merit to bring myself back to him. I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. I'm not good looking enough. God himself stepped into time and space, provided the rescue that I needed, so that I could be brought back in to this loving relationship with him.
Jesus came. He was born. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He died on the cross. His death paid the price that I owe. That should be me dying, but Jesus died in my place. Then he rose again. That is the message of the gospel. The moment that I yielded my life to Jesus my destiny changed forever. It happened for me a number of years ago. I've spent the last many, many years now trying the best I can to walk with Jesus. I'll be honest with you. Some days I do it better. Some days I don't do it as good. But that is the direction now of my life, walking with Jesus daily. That's my story, but you know what? It's not just good news for Matt. It's good news for you, because he died for you. He died for everyone. You see, he said, "Everyone who calls on the name of the lord will be saved."
So, how do we call on the name of the lord? Well, we saw in the verses that if we believe in our heart and we confess with our mouth, then we will be saved. So, what does that mean? What does that look like? Again, today is our orientation. I wanna answer some questions that you might have or maybe some questions you've already had answered. How do we do this thing? How do we believe in our heart, and how do we confess with our mouth? I'm gonna read through sort of a prayer with you. What I wanna do right now is I wanna ask you to go ahead and close your eyes, and bow your heads, and if when I read through those verses a moment ago, you said, "Yeah. That's me. I know that I am not right with God right now. I know that I'm a sinner, and I want to be reconnected with God," then you can pray along with me. If that's something that you're exploring and you're considering, you can pray this at a later point, but I wanna show you what that actually looks like right now.
In your heart you can pray along with me. It goes like this. Dear Jesus, thank you for making me and loving me, even though that I ignored you and I went my own way. I know that I need you in my life, and I realize that I have rebelled against you. I ask you to please forgive me. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Please help me to understand it more, but as much as I understand right now, I want to follow you. Please come into my life. Please make me a new person on the inside. I accept your free gift of salvation. Please help me to grow now, as your follower. Amen.
Now, that's all you have to do. Now, If you just prayed that or if you prayed that many, many years ago, listen to what Peter says about us, those of us who are followers of Jesus, who have yielded our lives to him. He says, "But you're a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light." You see, we have been given a new life. We've been given a new purpose. We no longer live for ourselves, but we live for God. Our destiny has changed. When we yield our life to Jesus, our destiny changes forever, and the direction of our walk changes. We move in a new direction. We're also empowered to live a new kind of a life. We don't just have a destiny change, but we get the power to live a new kind of a life.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore if anyone is on Christ, he is in new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come." When we yield our lives to Christ, our destiny changed forever, and we receive the power that we need to live a new kind of life. Just before Jesus returned to heaven, he said this to his followers. He said, "But you will receive power when the holy spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and all of Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth." When we yield our lives to Jesus, the holy spirit comes and lives within us, and the holy spirit gives us power. He gives us help. He gives us understanding. He gives us what we need, so that we can live a different kind of a life.
I don't know about you, but I need power, and I need insight. See, from the time that the holy spirit enters though we're gonna begin to feel this struggle, almost this war inside. We struggle between what we want, and what he's telling us, and the direction that he's leaning us in. We can feel him tugging us. It's normal to have that struggle. If you've just recently committed your life to Christ, you understand that. You're like, "Well, this is all the stuff that I used to do, and think, and say, and I wanna do something different, but I feel this struggle," if you've walked with Jesus for a long time, because of our sinful nature. You know, and you still feel that struggle.
You see, the world around us may feel a twinge of conscience like, " I probably shouldn't have said that. I probably shouldn't have done that," but if you're a follower of Christ, there's actually a battle going on inside of you. Often for me that battle looks like, "Don't say that. Don't do that. Don't think that. Don't look at that. Don't say that. Don't say that." You know what I'm talking about? This battle that's going on, it's because what our sinful nature, it comes so naturally. We've gotta fight against that. We don't have to fight against it on our own. We actually have the holy spirit to help us. You see, the new life from God flows from God to us through the holy spirit. He kind of acts like an umbilical cord for us. This new life flows through him to us.
You guys ever seen those old timey divers who used to wear those big suits with the helmets? I've got a picture for you here. This is what I'm talking about. You know? This diver is connected to the surface with a line. He's got this big, thick line there, and that's literally his lifeline. It's kind of hard to see, so I drew it for you and pointed to it with an arrow. That's his lifeline. Okay? That's kind of like what the holy spirit is for us. This lifeline brings communication, and it brings air down to him. I took this picture off of this video that I found. It was a declassified Navy diving video. It was like what they used to train the Navy divers long ago.
It was really interesting. What it talked about in there, it said that the divers had to constantly stay aware of this lifeline. They had to protect it at all cost. Why? Because they're there walking around on the bottom of the ocean doing this work, and fixing things, doing things, and then this line can get kinked, or it can get pinched, and if it does, the flow gets less. If the flow gets too less, to none, they're not gonna be able to breathe. This was their lifeline, and the holy spirit is like that for us. He is this lifeline form God that flows down to us. He gives us the power for this new life that we have in Jesus.
Now, because of our sinful nature, there are some things that just come naturally to us. Maybe you've experienced this, hatred, jealousy, selfish ambition. I could go on, but I think you know what I'm talking about, these things that just come naturally. But what Galatians 5:22 and 23 tells us is that because of the holy spirit, we are capable of producing new fruit. It says, "But the holy spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."
For me right now one of my constant prayers is for patience. I've got two small kids, a 17 month old and one who's turning three tomorrow. I love them dearly. They are precious. Sometimes they drive me crazy. I need patience, especially after a long day. You know, you've had a long, hard day, and there's that time between like 5:00 and whenever your kids go to bed that is just like the crazy time of the day. Right? That's the time that I'm coming home, and I need patience. I pray, "God, please give me patience." There are times when I come in and when I remember to pray that, when I remember to ask the help, I am amazingly more patient than when I don't. At the end of the day, when I've got nothing left, and I'm patiently helping these screaming children, I know it's the holy spirit answering my prayer, giving me this power, giving me the fruit of patience.
When we yield our lives to Jesus, we're empowered for this new kind of life, and he gives us the ability for this walk. We get the ability for the walk. Also, when we yield our lives to Jesus, we're often gonna have to swim against the current. This isn't fun, swimming against the current. This is the challenge of our walk. Do you guys know the difference between a lazy river and a rip tide? One of them is fun. You just sort of sit in this thing, and you go around, and the current takes you. The other one can be deadly. You can get swept out to sea by a rip tide. I've experienced both the lazy river and the rip tide. Several years ago my wife, Jessica, and I were snorkeling, and suddenly we noticed, "Hey. Weren't we a lot closer to the shore a few minutes ago? We're kind of a long ways out." As we started to swim back, we realized we were swimming really hard, and nothing was happening. We realized we were in a rip tide, and we had to intelligently respond and swim against that current to get back to the shore, to the safety of the shore.
As followers of Jesus, more often than we want there are times that we are gonna have to swim against the current of the world that we're living in. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God? What is good, and acceptable, and perfect?" Now, what this doesn't mean is that we are always just gonna have to oppose everything that's going on in this world. Sometimes we like to feel that way. That's not what this is saying. What this is saying is that when Jesus is calling me to go this way, but the rest of the world is running this way, what do I gotta do? I gotta go this way. Sometimes I gotta lean in further, because the whole current is coming at me this way, but I'm gonna go the direction that Jesus is taking me, not just the direction that the world is going.
Frequently the way this practically breaks down is we just have to look uncool. We have to intentionally choose to not participate in something that's going on, because we know that it's not pleasing to God. An example that I found myself in many times, I've coached a lot of people through this same type of situation, is this. You're out with some people. You're having a good time. You're having a conversation, and then suddenly the conversation takes a turn, and it goes in a direction that you know is not going to be pleasing to God. Maybe someone starts getting made fun of, things just kind of go crude, sort of standard locker room talk. Right? You know that this is not a pleasing direction to have this conversation. You feel that tug of the holy spirit. He's saying, "Don't join in on that. This is not pleasing. Don't participate in that." Then you're left, "What do I do? What am I supposed to do now?"
I've found it usually plays out a couple different ways. One is you're there. The conversation takes the turn, and then I try really hard to change the conversation. That's where you wanna have in your back pocket, "How about them Cowboys? Huh?" Then sometimes it's successful, like it moves, and you're like, "Oh, yeah. Now we're talking about something different, and I can relax and participate." But sometimes you can't change the conversation, and you are in a situation that it is not appropriate to just get up and leave. Maybe you're in a business meeting, a sales meeting, and your manager makes an off color comment. You kind of just can't get up and leave, but you say, "You know what? I'm just gonna sit there quietly, and I'm gonna choose not to participate. I'm gonna choose not to laugh, because I know what's being said right now, what's going on is not pleasing to God."
Then you find yourself sometimes in a situation where, "You know what? It doesn't matter. I can just get up and leave. I hate it inside. I know that I need to get up out of my chair. I just need to walk out the door, and everybody behind me is probably gonna laugh and think something, whatever, of me, but that's the right thing to do." I'm just so uncool in that moment, but I had to swim against the current. That's how it's played out in my life. Maybe you've experienced that in your life. So, swimming against the current is the challenge of our walk. When we yield our lives to Jesus, we also live out of gratitude, not out of guilt. We live out of gratitude.
Romans 8:1, we looked at it a moment ago. It says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ, Jesus." You see, we're usually aware. We feel a sense of guilt when we do wrong. To an extent that's helpful, because we know we need to clean up. We know we need to fix something, but our prayer is, "God, I was wrong. Thank you for forgiving me," and then we aggressively move forward in gratitude, not like a whipped puppy, not like, "I'm just such a bad boy." But we move forward in gratitude. We move forward in gratitude, because God has accepted us just the way we are. We don't have to change to come to him. He helps us change. He gives us the power to change. We move forward in gratitude, because Jesus died in our place on the cross. We move forward in gratitude, because we have a change in our eternal destiny when we become a follower of Jesus.
We move forward in gratitude, because he's now given us this new power to move forward in life. Gratitude, we often see it in the Bible expressed through things like, "Rejoice always," or, "Thank God always." A couple of examples. "Give thanks to the lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever." We give thanks to him, because his steadfast love endures forever. And, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ, Jesus for you." We move forward out of gratitude, not out of guilt. This is the attitude of our walk, the attitude as we move forward.
Finally, we make choices to grow and strengthen our walk. My experience in life up to this point has been that the weeds in my yard and my waistline will grow unintentionally. It kind of just happens. Right? But the things that I want, the growth that I want to experience only happens when I intentionally make choices. I do something about it. This is especially true for the new life that we have in Jesus Christ. When we yield our lives to Jesus, in that instant our destiny changes, but you know what? That also begins a lifelong process of learning and growing.
In John, chapter 15, Jesus makes the following statement to his followers. He says, "Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Now, they lived in a much more of an agriculturally astute culture at this time, so they understood exactly what Jesus was talking about here. For us sometimes we read that, and we're like, "What's he saying? The vine and the branches. What?" Okay. Think about a tree. Okay? The vine, the tree trunk. Right? The vine. The branches are connected to the vine or the tree trunk. When they're connected, what happens? They grow. They've got the nourishment that they need. They can grow, and they produce fruit. If they're not, they don't.
Friday, I went for a walk in a park, and I found this branch randomly in the parking lot. I don't even know what kind of a tree it came from, but what I can tell you, it is no longer abiding in the tree that it was once connected to. It is no longer going to produce any fruit. Same is true for us. If we wanna grow, we've gotta stay connected to God. We have to intentionally choose to stay connected. That's the only way our growth happens. It practically happens on a variety of different levels. Daily we've gotta connect with God. We've gotta set aside time during our day that we connect with him. We read our Bible. We pray. We often call that a quiet time. It's just some time in our day that we set aside and we connect with God.
Then on a weekly basis we gather together, like we're doing here today. We worship him. We learn truths from God's word. We participate in groups with other people, where we can encourage one another. We serve together. We connect weekly. Then we also take other opportunities as they come up. Pastor Ben mentioned the walk through the New Testament event that's coming up at the end of this month. That's a great opportunity. Sometimes the Bible is intimidating. It's scary, because it's a big book. Right? How in the world am I ever supposed to read all this? Depending on what kind of translation I have, there's some funny words in here. We don't talk like that maybe anymore. I don't understand what that word is. We're intimidated by it. When we're intimidated, we don't read it. We don't engage it. We don't stay connected.
These walk through the Bible events are some of the best events out there to really break it down, help us understand it. I have been teaching walk through the Bible events for several years now. I've taught hundreds and hundreds of people, and the thing that excites me the most about those events is when it's over, people's eyes are open, and they're like, "I get it. I can see some connections. Now, I want to go back, and I want to include this in my life on a daily basis."
That's what our hope for you is by offering this event at the end of this month. So, that's an opportunity that you can take to grow. See, we all make choices to grow this new life, but if your new life is not so new anymore, you still have to make choices to feed that life, because what we feed grows. So, these are the next steps that we take along the way. If you've been a part of Hope any length of time, you know that we talk about next steps. Some of you are tired about us talking about next steps. You're like, "I don't wanna hear about a next step again."
Here's the truth though. When you take a step, and then you take another step, and then you take another step, and another one, and another one, and another one, pretty soon you look back and you say, "You know what? That's where I was. That's who I was. Now look at me. I'm only five or six feet away from there, but I've made progress. I've made steps." We all have a next step to take. My next step is probably different from your next step, is probably different from the person sitting next to you. We all have a next step to take as we grow, as we continue to walk with Jesus.
So, when we yield out lives to Jesus, there is these five big things that occur. Our destiny changes forever. We're empowered to live a new kind of a life. Often we're gonna have to swim against the current. We live out of gratitude, not guilt, and we make choices to grow and strengthen this new life. If you're here this morning and you have never yielded your life to Jesus, I want to invite you to do that. I want to invite you to begin this journey with him. If you want 2019 to be different than 2018, I guarantee you it will be different if you do it walking with Jesus. It won't be perfect. It won't be easy. It won't be pain free, but I guarantee it will be different, as you have the power for this new life.
If you've got questions, questions are good. Questions are okay. I wanna invite you to get your questions answered. We wanna help you to the extent we can. But what I've found in my own life is unanswered questions can become the roadblocks to growth. So, get your questions answered. Then if you are a follower of Jesus, I wanna remind you, tap into the power source. Like I mentioned earlier, if I forget to pray on the way home, "God, give me patience," I'm gonna have more of a time, but when I remember to pray, and tap into the power, and say, "God, please give me patience," he supplies it. Then also, make growing part of your new year, part of your plans, part of your goals.
Would you join me in prayer? Father, thank you that while we were still sinners and did nothing to earn your love, we were opposed the you, you sent your son, Jesus, to this planet to do for us what we could never do for ourselves, to die in our place, and by doing so to reconnect us to you. God, thank you that we can have a loving relationship with you. Thank you for the power that you bring to the new life. Thank you for the new life itself. I pray and I thank you for these things. In Jesus' name, amen.