More Like Him
If someone were to ask you right now to describe your life, what would you say? Now, chances are that you’d have the same knee-jerk reaction that you have when someone asks you how you’re doing, so you’d probably just say that your life is fine, or not too bad, or that it’s going pretty good. And these knee-jerk reactions have become automatic for a reason, they give us a quick response without really having to think to much about the question. But what if you pushed past the knee-jerk reaction and tried to answer that question honestly?
So let me ask you again: if someone were to ask you right now to describe your life, what would you say? Well, maybe you still wouldn’t know exactly what to say because that is a pretty broad question. So let’s try to narrow it down a little bit more.
So what would you say if someone asked you to describe your physical health right now? Would you tell them that you just couldn’t resist all the cookies and candy that seem to be everywhere during the holiday season so you put on a few extra pounds over the last couple of weeks? Or would you tell them that you’re feeling a little sore right now because you’ve been putting the Peloton someone gave you for Christmas to good use? Would you talk about a recent diagnosis, a treatment you just began, or the way you’re still recovering from a bout with the flu?
Or what would you say if someone asked you what your finances are like right now? Now, yes, we’d probably all want to say, “that’s none of your business.” But what if we went further and really answered that question? Would you talk about the huge credit card balance you have after buying Christmas gifts for everyone on your list? Would you talk about the hit that you took to your bank account when you had to fix your furnace during the freezing weather last week? Would you be excited because Santa stuffed your stocking with a few hundred dollar bills? Would you talk about inflation, the stock market, or some other financial factor that is beyond your control?
Now, I’ll be honest with you, the chances that someone is going to walk up to you and ask you about any of these areas of life today or any other day are pretty slim. But since today is New Year’s Day, there’s a good chance that you’re already asking yourself about them.
But on New Year’s Day, you’re not just thinking about all of these areas because you’re trying to take stock of where you are in life right now. You’re also comparing where you are in each area of life right now with where you were one year ago. So on New Year’s, you’re not just thinking about where you are, you’re thinking about where you’ve been.
So when it come to your health, you’re not just thinking about how healthy you are right now you’re also thinking about how healthy you were this time last year. You’re thinking about how much you weigh today versus how much you weighed on January 1 last year. You’re trying to think if you spent more time exercising over the last twelve months than you did the year before. You’re thinking about new medical issues that have popped up or the injuries you were finally able to overcome. So you’re not just thinking about where you are today, you’re also thinking about where you were one year ago.
Or when it comes to your finances, you’re not just thinking about how much money is in your bank account today, you’re also thinking about if that balance is up or down from last year. You’re not just thinking about the balance of your 401(k) today, you’re thinking about how much it went down over the last twelve months. You’re thinking about all the extra money you spent because the cost of everything seemed to go up, and you’re trying to figure out how you can get back to where you were. So you’re not just thinking about where you are today, you’re also thinking about where you were one year ago.
But the really cool thing about New Year’s Day is that we don’t just think about the past and the present, we also think about the future. So on New Year’s, you’re not just think about where you are and where you’ve been, you’re also thinking about where you’re going.
You’re not just thinking about where you are and where you’ve been, you’re also thinking about where you’re going.
So, when you think about your health, you’re not just thinking about how you feel today or the progress you’ve made since last year…you’re also thinking about where you want to be one year from now. So you might be thinking that one year from now you want to be ten pounds lighter. Or you might be thinking that one year from now you want to have completed your first marathon. Or you might be thinking that one year from now you want to be off your blood pressure medicine, or finished with your cancer treatment, or fully recovered from your hip replacement surgery. So you’re not just thinking about the past or the present, you’re also thinking about the future.
Or, when it comes to your finances, if you’re bank account is lower this year than it was last year, you’re trying to figure out what you can do to bring it back up one year from now. Or you might be thinking about how much money you’re going to need to contribute to your 401(k) so that you’re able to finally retire one year from now. Or you might be thinking about what it would feel like to finally pay off your student loans or credit card debt over the next twelve months. So you’re not just thinking about the past or the present, you’re also thinking about the future.
And that’s something that we, here at Melbourne Heights, want to help you do as we enter into this new year. We want to help you think about your future. And specifically, we want to help you think about who you want to be one year from now.
We want to help you think about who you want to be one year from now.
Now, obviously, you may have a whole lot of goals that you want to accomplish in your life over the course of the next year to help you become the person you want to be one year from now. As a matter of fact, many experts suggest that you set goals in seven different areas of your life each year. So what are these areas?
Well, the first area is your intellectual life. So in this area you might set a goal of going back to school, or working on a new certification, or just reading more. The next area is your physical health. Some goals for your physical health might be exercising more, eating less, or kicking a bad habit like smoking. The next area is your relationships with your family. So you might make a goal to have more date nights with your spouse, or to have a “yes” day with your kids this year. The next area is your social life so you might set a goal to have dinner with a few friends every month instead of just catching up in a group text. Then you also need to have goals for your career and that might mean that you need to search for a new job this year, or to gain some new skills to help you get a promotion. You also need to have financial goals – like paying off debt or saving more for retirement. And the last area that experts recommend you set goals for is your spiritual life.
And it’s that last area that we really want to focus on as we enter this new year at Melbourne Heights. We want to focus on helping you become the person you want to be spiritually one year from now. But who should you want to be spiritually? I mean, we’ve all got some idea of what it means to be physically or financially healthy…but what does it mean to be spiritually healthy?
Now, if we’re being honest, then we have to admit that there are a couple of metrics that a lot of us use to measure our spiritual health…and this is especially true if you’ve spent much time around the church. So what are these metrics?
Well, I can remember back when I was a kid that at the start of every single Sunday School Class our teacher would ask us if we did three things…and we’d get a gold star on a chart for everyone of these things that we did each week. So what were these three things? Our teacher would ask if we read our Bible that week, if we prayed that week, and if we were going to the worship service that week.
And those are the same metrics that a lot of us still use to figure out how healthy we are spiritually today. We think that if we read our Bible, and say our prayers, and go to church that we’re in good spiritual shape…but if we aren’t reading the Bible, and praying, and going to church then we’ve got some work to do.
But you know what? God doesn’t measure your spiritual health by how many times you read the Bible, or pray, or attend church. And I know, that’s really weird to hear your pastor say…but it’s the truth. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of those things are important to your spiritual health, but they aren’t what determines your spiritual health. Or to put it another way, you can read your Bible, pray, and go to church and still be a lousy Christian.
You can read your Bible, pray, and go to church and still be a lousy Christian.
So if we can’t measure our spiritual health by the number of times we read the Bible, or pray, or go to church; then how can we measure our spiritual health? Well, Jesus answers this question for us in the passage of scripture we’re going to be taking a closer look at today. So if you’ve got a Bible close by go ahead and grab it and turn with me to Matthew 6.
And in Matthew 6, we’re going to be looking at part of what Jesus teaches in his longest recorded sermon – a sermon we usually refer to as the Sermon on the Mount. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus touches on a whole lot of different areas but, in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us the true measurement of our spiritual health. So let’s take a look at what Jesus says in Matthew 6, we’ll start reading in verse 24. It says:
24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? 31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Matthew 6:24-32 (Common English Bible)
So in the verses we just read, Jesus talks about a lot of the things we worry about whenever a New Year rolls around. Jesus talks about being worried about money, or being worried about we eat, or being worried about if our clothes are going to fit.
But Jesus also tells us that we aren’t measured by any of these thing. Instead, in the next verse we’re going to read, Jesus tells us what we – as his followers – are measured by. So here’s what he says. He says:
33 Instead, seek first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 (Common English Bible)
So Jesus tells us that we are measured on if we are seeking God’s kingdom first. And Jesus actually goes further than that a little earlier in this sermon he was preaching. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said that we should:
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48 (New Revised Standard Version)
But which one is it? Are we measured on seeking God’s kingdom first, or are we measured on being perfect like God is perfect? Well, even though both of these statements sound a little different, they’re actually saying the same thing. This is the way that the Apostle Paul summarizes it in a letter he wrote to followers of Jesus living in a place called Ephesus. Paul told them:
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (New Revised Standard Version)
So what goal should we – as followers of Jesus – be focused on as we start this new year? It’s the same thing we should always be focused on. Jesus says we should be focused on God’s kingdom and being perfect like God is. Pauls says we should be focused on being imitators or God.
But what they’re both really saying is that we should be focused on becoming more like Jesus. So let me ask you: One year from now, do you want to be more like Jesus or less like Jesus?
One year from now, do you want to be more like Jesus or less like Jesus?
Because here’s the truth, one of those two things is going to happen. Just like you will either be in better or worse physical shape one year from now, just like you’ll either be in better or worse shape financially one year from now, you’re either going to be more like Jesus or less like Jesus one year from now.
And if you want to be more like Jesus, you’re going to have to put in some work. So if you want to be more like Jesus, I want to challenge you to do something with me for the next month. Every day for the next month, I want you to read one chapter from the book of Matthew.
Now, remember, I told you earlier that the book of Matthew is a biography of Jesus. So by reading the book of Matthew, you’re going to learn more about who Jesus is. So since today is January 1, I want you to find some time to read Matthew 1. Tomorrow is January 2, so read Matthew 2. And keep going from there. And each week during this series, we’ll dig deeper into one of the stories we read each week.
Because if you want to be more like Jesus one year from now, then it starts by learning more about who Jesus is right now. And when you have a better idea of who Jesus is, then you’ll know who you need to become.