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Holy Sweat - Part 3

That Loving Feeling

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(7/13) Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield recorded music for a little over 10 years and were better known as???? They were the Righteous Brothers, and though they were popular for those years, perhaps their two biggest hits were Unchained Melody and Youíve Lost That Loving Feeling. How many of you remember from the mid 60ís? Some of you have no idea unless there have been remakes.

Do you remember that loving feeling? Do you remember the notes, phone calls, dates, hand holding, sitting close in the car, your song, and the goose bumps? Without wanting to bring up bad memories, some of you perhaps could or can identify with the Righteous Brothers, though you may not say it. You realize that your husband or wife or a former husband or wife or someone you were in a relationship with has seemed to distance themselves. Perhaps, the romance, the passion, the intimate times of just talking and being together have become less frequent, or non-existent. Like the elderly couple, as they got into bed one night. The wife said to her husband, "When we were young you used to love to hold my hand." He looks at her, sighs slightly, and reaches over and takes her hand. But she isnít satisfied and says, "When we were young, you used to love to cuddle with me." Again, he sighs a little, and with a few groans slides over and puts his arm around her. But she still isnít satisfied, and says to him, "When we were young, you used to love to nibble on my ear." With a few louder groans, he sits up, throws the covers off and gets out of bed. She is somewhat hurt by this and asks, "Where are you going?" "To get my teeth." He says with a slight growl. Hand holding, cuddling, and ear nibbling seemed to be more frequent and took less effort back then before the job got more demanding, the home took more care, the lawn got bigger, the children came along, the bills increased, then came grandchildren, and arthritis. And, youíve lost that loving feeling.

It happens in marriages. Often itís not intentional. It is just that maintaining the marriage has replaced the romance. In order to make sure that you donít lose that loving feeling, or to begin to show it again, you have to remember how you loved at the beginning and with intention and effort, you must implement a plan. It will take work and effort to plan - alone time, to turn off the TV and just talk, to plan a date night on a regular basis, to pick up a - just because I love you gift or card, or to help each other in a chore or a hobby - just to be together.

What does all of this have to do with a lesson series called, Holy Sweat? Answer is, it has a lot to do with it. Now I know that a series normally doesnít need 3 weeks to introduce it, but this one does. Three weeks ago, we saw that God has aspirations for you. He loves you very much and He accepts, adopts, and forgives anyone just as they are. He gives them new life, new hope, and a new future. They are born again, but His plan is to restore His image in them as He changes their lives so they begin to reflect the character and conduct of Jesus. Thatís what Romans 8:28-29 says, along with other places in the New Testament. In His love He provides us with all we need to change into that image.

Last week we looked a little at what our Lord Jesus was like in His Character and Conduct. We saw that He was full of grace and truth, He was gentle and humble, He was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief as He empathized with His people, and He sought the will and work of His Father.

Then we looked at how we have substituted boundaries instead of Christlikeness as the way we identify ourselves as His followers. Our focus is more on what we donít do - than on being what He was. To show that we are different from the world, we donít smoke, drink, chew (or run with people who do), play cards, dance, buy lottery tickets, watch R rated movies, listen to Rock music, or vote Democrat. And that is just part of the list. We read the right Bible, attend the right church, and listen to the right music. Now I am not saying that it is wrong to not do these things. It is very good to give your whole life, body, soul, and spirit to God. But it is wrong to point to these things as your mark of being a Christ-Follower. Do you understand that?

Let me ask you to pause and remember what it was that attracted you to Jesus. Was it the way He said He loved you; that is, by willingly dying in your place and then rising again? That He would rather die than live without you? Was it that He would never leave you or stop loving you? Was it His invitation to experience His peace and rest? Was it His complete forgiveness of all you have done or would ever do? Was it His promise that you could live with Him forever? Was it the promise to take away the fear of death and hell? Was it that you realized that He had the right way to live all of life? Maybe it was something else, but you knew you wanted to be with Him forever.

Here is another question. Do you remember how you responded to His love? Yes, you prayed a prayer and asked Him to save you and you were baptized. But did you want to sing more? Did you want to know all you could about what He says in this Book? Did you find yourself wanting to pray often? Did you want to hang out with Christians? Did you want to get involved in church stuff? Did you want to tell people how Jesus forgave and changed you? Have you lost that loving feeling? More than one church has.

Paul went to Ephesus in Acts 19 and stayed there for 3 years. He established the church there and that caused a riot. Paul had a tendency to do that. Acts 20 records a tearful good-bye speech to the church, which included a warning that from among them there would be, not stink-bugs but, savage wolves not sparing the flock. This was an important city and an important church. The church had Paul as its founder, and men like the Apostle John and Timothy as two of its pastors. It became a model church for its fundamental conservatism. This church was hopping and happening. It had programs, and an active membership. It was a watch dog for false doctrine and false teachers. If we lived back, it would be the church that we would want to be join. It had sound teaching and preaching. The worked to promote and protect the name of Jesus. Paul wrote a letter to them and closed that letter with these words, 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love (Eph. 6:24)

But something was wrong. When John was exiled to Patmos and had an encounter with the risen and glorified Lord some thirty five years after the church was founded, our Lord Jesus instructed Him to write to them and tell them, "Youíve lost that loving feeling!" (Look at Rev. 2:1-7) Or in the words of the old Hank Williams song, "Why donít you love me like you used to do? They were so into the church, their doctrine, and Christianity that they didnít spend time with Jesus. They were busy with programs, and being Christian. And our Lord says. Stop it. Remember, Repent (change your mind with a view of changing your actions), and Return to the first works. Itís like a husband or a wife, watching their spouse work hard at his or her job, keep the lawn trimmed, the house clean, and wishing he or she would just stop and give a hug, or say, "I love you," like they used to do. Wishing we could just take a walk and talk, or go out to a movie, or a restaurant, just the two of us, and share our goals, our wishes, etc. Maintaining the marriage has replaced, being married. Do you understand that?

By the way, being the husband or wife God wants you to be also requires training. We have to train ourselves to not think selfishly but to consider how to think of your spouse and what their love language is and how to speak it often. We have to train ourselves to plan time, and talks, and walks, and dates, and to think of what is important to your spouse. It doesnít happen by good intentions or by trying to do better. I want you to get that (repeat). It happens by training yourself to be what you pledged to be. Donít try, train! Discipline yourself. Start exercising. In a marriage you might have to get a notebook, day timer, whatever, and write in date nights, pick up a card, turn TV off, take a walk, plan a few days away. Plan a vacation. And you might have to do that each week. In that notebook you might have to write in bold letters, "My Spouse is my highest priority." Years ago, my wife said to me, "I wish you put as much into planning a family vacation as you do planning time to hunt. Ouch! Someone once said, that no one says on their death bed, "I wish I had spent more time with my business, or my hobby, or my home, or my lawn." Train yourself to do what maybe seemed natural at the beginning of your relationship.

Being like Jesus is our Fatherís highest goal for your life. Hopefully, it is also your goal. As a Christ-follower, I donít want to be what I was nor do I want to be just a religious person. I want to be like Jesus. I want to love Him with all my heart mind, soul, and strength. I want to love my family like He loved me. And I want to love the world that He died to redeem. I want to want what He wants, feel what He feels, think like He thinks, love what He loves, and even hate what He hates. This is what Paul was trying to say in Phil. 3:7 ff. "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christóthe righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christóyes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. To Know Ė is to know intimately, deeply, personally. To know Jesus so personally, that he becomes like Jesus is the goal that Paul is speaking of here. Thatís the prize, for which everything else is considered as worthless.

But being like Jesus doesnít come from just wanting to be like Him. It takes training. It takes intentional effort. Itís not just trying to be like Jesus, itís training to be like Jesus. Thatís why Paul told Timothy to exercise yourself, or train yourself in 1 Tim. 4:7-8. In 1 Cor. 9, Paul compares the Christian Life to preparing for the Olympics and says this in verse 25 (NIV) Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. No one says, "I am going to try to run a marathon." Rather, they train to run a marathon. Nor, does anyone say, "I am going to try to be a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine." They train to be soldiers.

We are disciples of Jesus. Jesus did not chose 12 guys and say to them, try to be good Christians. He trained them. He chose them, Mark 3 says, "He chose 12, that they might be with Him." And when they were arrested a few years later, the religious police marveled at the spiritual knowledge of these guys had with no college degree or formal education, and said, "Itís obvious, these guys were with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)They had been trained. The disciples went thru disciplines.

Donít try to be a better Christian, train to be like Jesus. We know that this is our Fatherís goal for our lives. Thatís why the forth coming life lessons are so important. They will not only encourage you to return to the first works, but will be designed to help you rekindle your love for Jesus as you train and grow and transform into His image. Hereís what we are going to do.

ē Mediation Ė Not sit in a circle and chant, "Ohm." Rather, we are going to focus on spending time with Godís Word. Meditation has the idea of not just reading but thinking about what you read. Remember when Joshua took over for Moses, This is what our Lord told Him, (Josh. 1:9) Davidís first recorded song went like this, (Psalm 1). In His word, we see His heart, His will, His desire, His example, and we know how to please Him. In His word, we hear how much He loves us, and what He has planned for us, and how He will clean us up and forgive us.

ē Prayer Ė Do you know how to pray? Do you know the purpose for prayer? Prayer is not a last resource. And it is not just to ask that people would be better in their health. Prayer is not to just ask God to make your life better. Prayer is expressing your love verbally to God. Prayer is to share your faith and trust in God, Prayer is to express your dependence on God. Prayer is to seek Godís will and Godís way. By the way, do you know that one of the number one symptoms of a dead or ineffective church is that they donít pray together?

ē Worship and Celebration Ė Why is important to celebrate with our Father? To sing? To express adoration and praise to Him? To celebrate with a family of believers?

ē Solitude/Stillness Ė We are going to see why it is so necessary to have some time to be still, to quiet your soul, and to listen to God. We often refer to having quiet time. Do you ever take some time just to be still and listen or to think of what God wants to do in and through you?

ē Holy Spirit Guidance Ė The Bible reminds us repeatedly that the Holy Spirit of God is now residing in us and He is with us to help us, but how do we know when He is guiding our decisions, and how do we let Him guide us?

ē Self-control Ė Guarding your heart, and controlling your body, your thoughts, and your situations is a major discipline that we must do to honor God with our lives, and not fall into temptation or slip back into old habits.

ē Service Ė Jesus came to serve. I seriously question the reality of a personís walk with God who isnít serving God by serving people. Sometimes itís a thankless discipline. But we cannot be like Jesus if we arenít serving the people Jesus died for.

ē Accountability/Confession/ Purity Ė Have you ever looked at the 12 steps of AA? They really sound like Godís goal for all Christ-followers. Let me share them with you.

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcoholóthat our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Asking God to search our hearts regularly and having the Holy Spirit bring them to the surface isnít a pleasant task, but a necessary one, to be like Jesus.

ē Simplicity/ Humility/Secrecy Ė Humility was a character trait of Jesus. How can I follow God, without wanting the attention, recognition, or applause that my ego desires?

ē Suffering Ė Not training you to suffer, but how to respond when it happens and - it happens.

Have you lost that loving feeling? Whether it is your marriage, or following Jesus it requires discipline, training, to get it back. Are you willing to make that commitment to your Father? "Father, I know that my relationship with you is one of grace, but becoming like you requires discipline, and like Paul, I want to know you intimately and become like you. Help me to be disciplined to do what is important in my walk with you and in my marriage. I ask in Jesusí name."

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman