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The Authority and Power of Christ (3)

 

Christ’s Authority Fills Life with Purpose

 

Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 9:57-62

 

Jim Davis

 

An article in WebMD Medical News, December 11, 2003 titled “Religion Brings Greater Happiness,” by Jeanie Lerche Davis, which deals with the idea that the “Pursuit of Happiness Means Less Stuff, More Purpose” is appropriate for the times in which we live.

 

Dec. 11, 2003 – “We want just one thing for Christmas: more stuff. Give us a digital camera, a Burberry coat, and a Prada bag -- please.

But wait: If pursuit of happiness is really your goal, forget all that. Only spirituality and a sense of purpose bring bliss, says one British researcher.

“‘It's a timely message, since we do get swamped by our materialistic culture at Christmas,’ lead researcher Stephen Joseph, PhD, a psychologist with the University of Warwick in England, tells WebMD. ‘Christmas just amplifies our materialism.’

 

“Joseph's study seeks a recipe for happiness, looking beyond religious faith, which other studies have shown is one ingredient. He looks at self-actualization and purpose in life, too.

 

“His study appears in this month's issue of the journal Mental Health, Religion & Culture.”

 

“Meaning = Happiness

 

“In it, Joseph publishes information gleaned from 101 undergraduate students between ages 18 and 49. Each completed surveys that measured their attitudes toward Christianity, whether they felt a purpose in life, and if they had made strides toward that goal.

 

“The surveys also asked their general feelings about life: ‘I feel dissatisfied with my life. I feel happy. I feel cheerless. I feel pleased with the way I am. I feel life is enjoyable. I feel life is meaningless.’

 

“Those scoring high in religious beliefs -- who went to church regularly, had a strong religious faith, and prayed often -- also scored high in happiness and purpose in life.

 

“‘We're not saying that all religious people are happier than non-religious people,’ Joseph tells WebMD. ‘It's just that, on average, religious people tend to be happier because they have a greater sense of purpose in life.’

 

“Actually, a spiritual path outside of organized religion works in the pursuit of happiness, too. ‘Religion is only one path to sense of purpose,’ he says.

“Pursuit of happiness should shorten our ‘give me’ list, he says.  ‘Material success, wealth, possessions -- those are detrimental to happiness. More important is valuing our relationships, fostering a sense of community. Religion serves as a vehicle in pointing people in that direction.’"

 

“People who are not religious but want to celebrate the holidays should focus on connecting with family or with friends they consider to be family, says James H. Bray, PhD, associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.’

 

“That can be very positive -- you can take time to do nice things for other people, enjoy their company and the support that you give each other," he tells WebMD.

 

“‘Also, volunteer work can be a good way to get beyond yourself,’ Bray says.  ‘Ring the bell for the Salvation Army. I have friends who buy 10 or 20 frozen turkeys, then spend an afternoon driving around in poor neighborhoods and giving them out. Also, I've noticed that a lot of holiday parties encourage bringing toys [to give to charity]. That's a great way to be part of the celebration.’”

 

Christ Fills Our Lives with Purpose

 

The reason the gospel message rings so true with me is because it rings so true with what I know life ought to be—it rings true to what the world knows. We know conscious rational beings cannot live without a sense of purpose. Everything we do is activated by a sense of purpose. It doesn’t mean everything we do is good and noble. You may be motivated, by greed, revenge, hate or lust. For some the only purpose of living is money, fame, power, or sex. Our purpose may be exalted or debased. It may be an obvious conscious drive, or it may be a hidden unconscious drive. The fact remains that we are driven by a sense of purpose. It is extremely important to ask the question, “What is the purpose of my life? What is the motivation for doing the things I do?”  (D. James Kennedy, Led by the Carpenter, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, pg. 4, 5.)

 

There is one major difference in the Christian’s sense of purpose as compared to a non-religious person’s sense of purpose. The Christian has a divine sense of purpose that extends beyond this life. It goes beyond just living a meaningful life on earth to embracing God’s eternal purpose.

 

I think Jesus speaks of the danger in not discovering a meaningful life in the following verses.

 

Matthew 12:43-45

43 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." NIV

 

Our purpose must go beyond cleaning house to get rid of the demons. The reason the demon returned with his friends was because the person sought to live without purpose. His only purpose was to get rid of the demons. These verses tell us that getting rid of the demons is not nearly as important as what we do after the demons gone. An empty life is a life without purpose. It is an open invitation for the demons to return. When the demon returned, he brought seven others with him, and the man's life ended in tragedy. His condition was worse. That is how it is going to be with every wicked generation.

 

2 Peter 2:20-22

20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." NIV

 

Life is somewhat like dipping water out of a swimming pool. Have you noticed how dipping a bucket of water out of a swimming pool doesn’t leave a hole in the water? Water rushes in to displace the space. The space we seek to create in our lives to make room for the important things will always seek to be filled with the less important.

 

It’s the same with finances. Have ever had a car payment? Four years to pay on a car gets burdensome. You can’t wait to pay that last payment so you can have some extra money. It is such a relief to pay that last payment, but you discover that somehow you don’t seem to have extra money, even though you have no car payment.

 

It’s the same with time. You live all your life to retire to have time do what you always wanted to do. But somehow you don’t seem to have anymore time after retirement.

 

It takes a lot of hard work to fill the voids left in life with meaning and purpose. It takes a lot of effort to set aside time for personal Bible study, to attend Bible study, to attend church, to spend time with the wife and family. If you don’t fill your life with important things, the demons will make absolutely sure your life will be filled with the unimportant.

 

Christ can purposefully fill the void in your life. You’re the only person who can make sure it is filled with Christ. The church can encourage you and support you, but you must allow Christ to fill the void. I heard a professor in one of my college classes say, “The home is failing to teach and rear the children in the proper manner.” His solution was for the church to fill the void for what was lacking in the home. The church should be the extended family for each Christian family, but it cannot completely fill the void. Parents must fill the void.

 

God’s word is given to us so that we can participate and cooperate with him as he seeks to refashion us into his image, after his likeness. You can’t live in a vacuum. Stop and think about all the things that keep you busy today. Most of us are too busy. It’s really amazing we have microwaves making cooking faster. We buy prepared foods to cook. One minute oatmeal, breakfast bars, ready made biscuits, frozen dinners.

 

Yet, how busy are you? Do you have any more time for family, or church? What’s happening to us? We have emptied our lives with all these time savers, but we are busier than ever. Why? Maybe it is because we are allowing our demons to come back in bringing their friends with them.

 

Last Sunday we studied Matthew 8:28-34 where Jesus cast a legion of demons out of two Gadarenes. We took special note of Jesus authoritative power over the demons. Their demons were commanded to go into a herd of 2000 pigs—when they entered the pigs, the pigs rushed off a slope into the water killing themselves and frightening those tending the pigs.

 

The demons were driven out but the Gadarenes lives were still empty. The Gadarenes came to Jesus asking him to leave their country. As Jesus got into the boat to leave one of the demon men possessed came to him asking to go with him. He knew his life couldn’t remain empty. He begged to go with Jesus. He knew he needed something to fill the void left by the demons exit.

 

He knew his life would have to find a purpose, so he wanted to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus gave him a purpose. He told him to go tell his family and friends how much the Lord had done for him, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed” (Mark 5:20). Imagine, demon possessed one moment and preaching the gospel the next. Jesus gave him a meaningful purpose—tell others about the Lord.

 

The Gadarenes asked Jesus to leave. He knew they needed more. He sent the once demon possessed man into their mist to give them the gospel of purpose for their lives. He knew driving out the demons while failing to give them purpose would only be an open invitation for the demons to return. Today many can’t get rid of the demons. They continue to return after being driven out. It’s because they don’t want to accept Christ’s purpose.

 

Many who saw the miraculous works of Jesus came to him wanting to follow him.

 

Luke 9:57-62

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

 

58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

 

59 He said to another man, "Follow me."

 

But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

 

60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

 

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

 

62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." NIV

 

These men were looking for a more convenient time to come to Jesus. These didn’t follow Jesus because they couldn’t see beyond their immediate circumstances. Too many of us are seeking to discover a life unencumbered with the limitations of time, culture and debilitating circumstances before we make a move to live for Christ. Do you know what these things are--they are the demons you are facing. Accepting Christ authoritative power to drive them out and keep them out is your only hope.

 

Do you know how much of the Bible is written to persuade us to look beyond our circumstances—beyond our limitations? All of it!!! All of it is written to produce a life of walking by faith—not by sight.

 

To get beyond ourselves, beyond the demons we are fighting, we must focus our lives on Jesus. We must allow Jesus to reprioritize our lives. There is a price to pay to keep the demons out. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,” and you may end up without a place to lay your head. However, don’t let worrying about a place to lay your head take your focus off Christ. Focusing on Christ requires allowing this dead world to deal with its own issues of death. It may require saying good-by to family and friends. To some, it may mean accepting the responsibilities of family and children.

 

Our materialistic culture leads us to believe not having a place to lay our heads is failure. Seeking to fill life with stuff, never gives meaning and purpose. We will never enjoy the presence of Jesus in our lives until we let go of this world. We must trust Christ to do this.

 

I heard on a Christian radio broadcast about a woman eating out of a garbage can outside of a homeless shelter. There was plenty of free food inside for her. She seemed rather intelligent, so some encouraged her to go inside to get something to eat. She looked up and said, “There is plenty of food right here, and it is adequate.” I am just like you. I don’t want to live like that, but two thirds of the world has less than that to eat. The saddest part about their predicament is they have no opportunity either.

 

Today we have opportunity. We have the resources. We have the money. We have the knowledge. We have the time. Most of all we have Christ. We must Christ to fill the void as he drives the demons out.

 

Making a commitment to Christ requires putting one’s hand to the plow and not looking back. It requires accepting Christ’s direction for one’s life without longing for the good old days. I have driven a tractor plowing fields on a farm. There is no way you can plow looking backwards. I have plowed up a few soybeans because I lost my sense of direction from looking back.

 

Being Filled with God’s Spirit

 

Christ not only comes to drive the demons out of our lives, but he drives them out so that God’s Holy Spirit can take up resident in our hearts as he focuses our hearts on Christ. He comes into our lives to fill our life with meaning and purpose. Yet, before Christ becomes the focus of our lives, we must trust in his authority and power to direct the affairs of our world to provide for us.

 

I read a church sign on the way to the church building one morning that said: “To have things’ the way you want them to be, you have to give up the way things are.” There is no way we can have a new life in Christ without giving the life we now have. To have the life of Christ, you have to give up who you are.

 

John 12:23-26

23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. NIV

 

It’s the time in many of our lives for Christ to be glorified—but we must die first. To become a Christian we must meet Christ in his death. We do this at baptism when we are buried with Christ. We make a commitment to die with Christ, but it goes beyond dying with Christ. A new life begins upon receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at baptism. The Holy Spirit is given to us to lead us to fill our lives with the works of God.

 

Romans 8:1-2

8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. NIV

 

Romans 8:6-8

6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. NIV

 

Before God’s Spirit can truly fill our lives we must be exposed to the Scriptures. After all, the Word of God came into being as the Spirit led the apostles to write them for the purpose of directing the Christian’s life. The Scriptures are designed to point us to God. 

 

Colossians 3:16-17

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. NIV

 

The word of Christ is designed to inhabit our lives—it is to inhabit us richly. Do you know why worship services are not as exciting as they should be? It is because we fail to allow the word of Christ to dwell in us—to inhabit us. Our worship is directed by how we live. How we live is to be directed as we allow the word of Christ to dwell in us. It is designed to live in us. It is designed to drive out the demons so that God’s Holy Spirit can move in to fill the void.

 

Conclusion:

 

The article we read at the beginning said that religion and volunteer work gives meaning to life. However, I hope you understand it is focusing your life on Christ that gives real meaning to life. Christ has the authority to drive the demons out of your life. He has the power to keep them out. He has the wisdom to give your life an eternal purpose.

 

Want you claim Christ as Lord of your life as you confess his name?

 

Want you choose to meet Christ in his death through baptism as you repent of your sins—turning away from the things that push Christ out of your life?

 

Want you allow Christ to reprioritize the way you are living so you can discover his eternal purpose for your life?

 

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