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Holy Sweat

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/15) Introduction Ė The birth of oneís children is one of the most incredible things there is for a dad to witness. Children often make dads swell with pride. Often we dads or parents have tremendous aspirations for our children. We see them taking over the family business, or becoming Drs., nurses, teachers, preachers, engineers, architects, astronauts, pro-athletes, or some high tech specialists. Rarely, do we say, "I hope my child is average and gets by without flunking out." We hope and pray that our children will be more than average, better than us, and that they wonít make the mistakes we made. We want the best for them. We may even take steps to plan for their future. We start college funds. We start them in early childhood education. We get them involved in sports, dance, martial arts, or music. What are some aspirations that you had for your children?

As our children grow they begin to develop their own aspirations for their lives. Saying, "When I grow up I want to beÖ." And they go to college, military, a tech school, or whatever to get the skill training to be what they want to be. At least that is the way it should be. Increasingly, young people are graduating high school and/or college without any specific ambition. What did you want to be or do when you grew up?

Do you know that your Heavenly Father has aspirations for your life? He tells us specifically what that is, but many Christians never realize or fulfill Godís plan for their lives.

I. The Plan

You may have heard of the wonderful gospel booklet called The Four Spiritual Laws by Campus Crusade for Christís founder Bill Bright. The booklet begins with Law #1 which says, "God loves you and offers you a wonderful plan for your life." Do you know what Godís plan is for your life? Let me tell you.

Like the military, our Father in Heaven will accept us just as we are, but He has no intention of leaving us that way. Our Father does what every military boot camp Drill Instructor does who takes raw recruits and conditions them physically and mentally to respond to pressure and the commands they are given, in order to be Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who make up the best military in the world Ė soldiers that they can trust their lives to and who will obey commands without questions. No military takes a new recruit and hands them a weapon and turns them loose in a battle. They must be trained. Here is our Fatherís basic plan.

A. His Plan is to rescue you from the consequences of your sin nature and sinful life. He sent Jesus whose very name means "The Lord Saves," because He shall save (that is, to rescue from danger or harm) His people from their sins. Sin results in pain and suffering and death that is physical, and emotional and spiritual and ultimately eternal. But Jesus came to rescue us. Christmas is a celebration of His birth so that He could ultimately die as our substitute and rise again as we celebrate each Easter. Then God would rescue anyone who would believe in and call to Him to be rescued. Peter tells us that God doesnít want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Paul says to Timothy that God really wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4-5). Thatís the essence of John 3:16 and others. He wants us to be rescued.

B. He wants to adopt you as His own Child, so He can be your Father and give you an inheritance to share with Jesus for all eternity. Thatís what Romans 8:14-18 tells us. Do you see that?

C. He wants to change you so that you will think and act just like Jesus. Letís look at a few verses by Paul and John:

ē Phil. 2:5; 14-20

ē 2 Cor. 3:18

ē Col. 1:27

ē 1 John 2:6 "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." ; 3:1-3

ē Romans 8:28-30

ē Gal. 4:19

Now these verses remind us that the plan will not be complete until we are with Him in Heaven (Rom. 8:18 and 30). But we are going to have new bodies like His (Phil. 3:20) and we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). But until then He wants us to think and act like Jesus. He is in the process of transforming our Character, our Conduct and our Mind so that we will be like Jesus.

Around the year 1500, the great artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti completed one of his greatest masterpieces -The Pieta. The Pieta is a 13í high marble statue of Mary holding Jesus who has just been taken down from the cross. It is an incredible piece of art. But in 1972 an unemployed Hungarian geologist named Laszlo Toth took a hammer and yelling that he was Jesus Christ, began to smash the Pieta, incurring a lot of damage. A team of some of the worldís best sculptors were summoned and the masterpiece was restored. The Pieta is now displayed behind bullet proof glass in Saint Peterís Basilica in the Vatican.

Listen carefully, our God created us in His image, we were his masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 says we are His workmanship, a translation of the Greek word poiema, His special piece of art. But His image in us was damaged by the fall that we all took when Adam sinned. We were marred by the sin nature in our lives. But our Fatherís goal in Christ is not to just repair us, it is to restore that image in us. He is in the process of making us new creatures in Christ. Sadly, too many Christians believe that the end of Godís plan is that we pray to receive Jesus as Savior and then attend a few Bible studies or Church services when it is convenient. Many believe that there is a separation between our religious life and our everyday life. Look again at Gal. 4:19, Paul tells these Galatian Christians that he felt like a woman in childbirth labor wanting so much for Christ to be formed in them. The word he uses is Morphe, or Morphosis, meaning, to form a thing.

When my boys were small, a poorly made but very popular show came on TV for children. It was called Power Rangers. 4 or 5 teens that could change from ordinary teens to Ninja like warriors when they morphed. Other examples are like Dr. Jekyll who would change into Mr. Hyde when he took a potion that allowed his sin nature to express itself unrestrained, or Dr. Bruce Banner who, when he became angry, would change into the Incredible Hulk. Thatís all fiction, but what God wants is real. He wants us to morph into the likeness of Jesus.

This isnít meant to be a temporary change or forming, but a permanent transformation. Look back at Romans 8:29. The word conformed is a version of morphe, it is summorpheo and it means, to render or to form like something. Our Father wants to form you to be like Jesus, not in your looks but in your character and conduct.

Still another version of the word Morph is found in Romans 12:2, "Be not conformed (rendered like) the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Here the word means to change to another form. Paul says God wants your mind to be changed from a world focused and world centered mind that we are inclined to want, to a mind that thinks like Jesus. Without Jesus we are naturally inclined to think like a world centered person, just like the majority of earthís population. The whole world is focused on fulfilling their own desires. Paul says, stop that kind of thinking and start thinking totally different. The word transformed is metamorphosis, and yes, it is the word that we use for what occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Stop thinking like caterpillars, and let God shape your mind to think like Jesus.

II. The Predetermination (Rom. 8:28-29) Are you with me?

God wants that kind of metamorphosis to occur in you. Our Father loves you, accepts you, and adopts you as you are, but He does not want you to stay that way. He has a predetermined plan for you. He is committed to changing you to be like Jesus. Regardless of what you may have been taught about predestination, Paul makes it clear that God determined long before you were born and before you became a Christ- Follower, that He was going do all He can, without interfering with your free will, to train you to become like Jesus. There are no exceptions!

III. The Process A (Godís part and Provision)

To help us to morph, our Father has given us 6-7 gifts. Letís look at them.

A. He gives us His Holy Spirit, the very presence of Himself living in us. 2 Cor. 3:18. His presence forever abiding or living in us takes our dead spirits and gives them life. Then He teaches us, guides us, and enables us to respond and grow up to be like Jesus. This was a major theme for our Lordís discussion with the 11 before He was arrested in John 14-16. He promised His presence to comfort or to come alongside of to help us.

B. He gives us His WordĖthe Bible. The Bible teaches us what God wants and what Jesus is like. 2 Timothy 3:14-17. It is in His word that we see what Jesus was like, how He thought and what He wanted and what His goals were. I challenge people to spend 4-6 months and only read the four gospels and with a notebook, notice not only the words in red, but how Jesus thought, how He responded to all kinds of people. Then ask our Father to help you to respond the same way.

In His Word, we see our own faults, and how to correct our mistakes and sins. In this book we see exactly what Godís will is for our lives. This is our ownerís manual designed to show us Godís plan for our lives and our world.

C. He gives us Pastors and Teachers to explain Godís Word to us (Eph. 4:11ff), so we will know what words like transformed and love mean. They teach us the theology of God, of sin and salvation, and of Godís plan for the future. These men and women study and labor in the word to teach us what we may not see on our own.

D. He gives us Trials and Tests and Difficult Circumstances to respond to. (James 1:2-4, Rom. 5:4). You see every test, every circumstance requires an action or a reaction. How will you respond? What will you think? What will you say? What will you do? Romans 8:28 says, "We know that God works All things together for good." What does all mean? All means all and thatís all that all means. Your challenges did not take God by surprise. He knew they were coming or He brought them. He even allowed Satan to tempt you. He has orchestrated them all for a positive result in your life. I donít always get that, but I know it is true. He wants to see if we will trust Him or if we will respond in obedience, or if we will do what we have been taught to do in these circumstances. James and Paul reminds us that these trials are to produce an essential ingredient for Christ-likeness, i.e., Patience; the ability to hold up under pressure.

In my opinion, one of the greatest football coaches of the 20th century was Dallas head coach Tom Landry. Once during an interview, Coach Landry was asked how he was able to take a bunch of individuals and forge a championship team from them. This was his response. "My job is to get men to do what they donít want to do in order to achieve what they have always wanted to achieve." Thatís Godís plan for your trials.

E. He will present us with opportunities to respond to, as Jesus would. He will make us aware of life outside of our comfort zone and asks us to respond to needs in other peopleís lives. It could be for the poor down the street, or the victims of a fire, a death, or people in another state or country that have experienced disasters like a Tornado, Hurricane, Flood, or Fire. Places like Missouri, Mississippi and Florida, Oklahoma, California, Mexico, Guatemala, Africa, Somalia, or the Sudan. (Cp. Jerusalem and Macedonia in 2 Cor.8. (Just as He did for us as in John 3:16; Phil. 2:5).

F. He has given us examples (John 13:17). We see Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, Peter, our Lord Jesus and the others, and we know from them what the right and wrong thing is to do.

IV. The Process B (Our Part Ė Holy Sweat- 1Tim. 4:7-8)

He has given us disciplines. It is from this word that we get disciple. The basic idea of the word discipline is training. A disciple is one who is trained to become like his or her teacher. Notice what Paul tells young Timothy, a Pastor in Ephesus, "exercise yourself," The word, "exercise," is a word from which we get gymnasium. It means to give it a work out. It would be so wonderful if Christ-likeness would just happen. We go to church or pray a prayer and the Metamorphosis would just happen. Instant change from a caterpillar to a butterfly, a frog to a prince. Sadly, it doesnít work that way.

No farmer says, I will just wake up one day and harvest a crop. What must he do? He has work to prepare the ground, fertilize the ground, check the ph., plant the seeds, control the weeds and the insects, and then trust God for the sunshine and rain. Likewise, no student says, I will just wake up tomorrow and have a degree. It takes years of work and study, papers to write and tests to take to get that degree. No businessman just says, I will wake up tomorrow and have a profitable business. He has to work and do good work and build over time in order to turn a profit and have a good business. A beautiful lawn and garden donít just happen. It takes work to till, plant, fertilize, water, and to control weeds and insects in order to have a beautiful lawn and garden. Amen? Amen! Grace is free, growth takes effort. It takes sweat. To morph and become like Jesus takes Holy Sweat.

Every year around January the 1st, the sale of diet plans and memberships in gyms increase for about a month. Something happens when we hit the 40-50 year old mark, and it doesnít matter if you are male or female, our bodies simply donít burn the calories that they once did. Instead, they begin to store them up in the form of fat. Why? I donít really know. What I do know, is that if I want to lose that fat and get back into shape, enough to play with my grandchildren, I have to be conscious of what I eat, and not eat everything that I want, and though I donít like it so much, I have to exercise. I believe that every diet pill, or every diet plan that says it will help you lose weight, also says, that it must be combined with exercise. You need a good strenuous cardio-vascular workout.

There are days that I get up and say, "Itís a beautiful morning, think Iíll go outside for a while and walk 3 miles, and come back and do some weight training." But it may be the very next day and I get up and say, "I do not want to exercise today, I want a donut and another cup of coffee." On those days, I need Debbie to convince me that I need to do this. I do not like to exercise unless it is chasing a fly ball, or trying to put a ball through a hoop but my legs remind me that I canít do that like I used to.

I remember playing little league baseball. We signed up and showed up with a ball glove and we were taught how to play ball. It was great. When I got to high school, we did not have a football team, we had soccer, so I signed up, showed up, and for a half hour every day we exercised and ran, before any ball ever came out of the bag to practice with. Coach Powelson believed in conditioning. We ran long distances, sprints, laps, and we did push-ups, leg lifts, real sit-ups (not crunches) and jumping jacks until we couldnít jump. Army basic training was a cake-walk compared to Coach Powelsonís work-outs. The end result is that we won the county and the district championships all four years, and lost the state all four years because we were a little tiny school playing huge schools. Like Tom Landry, Coach Powelson, made us do what we didnít want to do, in order to achieve what we wanted to achieve.

Our Father wants us to be like Jesus and while He provides us with everything we need, we must go through the disciplines of exercise to achieve what we want to achieve. These are not push-ups, or pull-ups, or crunches; not jogging, or weight training. The exercises God wants us to do to achieve the goal of morphing into Christ-likeness are things like, worship, prayer, meditation, stillness, secrecy, service, suffering, confession, guarding your heart, trusting the Holy Spirit, and more. With our Fatherís equipment and some holy sweat, we will be morph into the likeness of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Are you up to it? Now you know what our Fatherís goal is for your life. You know what God is doing with all He has given you and allowed you to experience. Are you ready for a Holy work-out? Not everyone who came to the that first soccer practice came back for the second, there were many that did not need to be cut, some said, this is too much and they quit. They were content to watch us go through the training and play the games. The same is true for Christians. Many will say, the exercises are too tough and I am content to attend church and watch the others play the game. If that is you, you will never experience either the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. You will be a couch potato Christian.

Before I finish, I have a couple of warnings for those who will do the exercises. These are exercises. They are not laws. They are not designed to produce Pharisees. Neither are they designed to be a measure of self-righteousness by which you compare yourselves to others or so you can feel like you have done your 20 minute God thing for today. They are designed to condition you to be like Jesus 24/7/365.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman