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WHAT BUTTON DO WE PUSH TO HAVE TRUE FULFILLMENT?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

18 AUGUST 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Leviticus 19:18
Matthew 6:33
Matthew 10:32-39
Mark 8:34
Luke 14:26-27
Ephesians 5:15-21

Preparation Verse: (Matthew 6:33)

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”

Today we have all kinds of computers and electronic gadgets that have become such a part of our lives that we find it hard to get along without them.

And, we're going to have even more in the future.

We push one button to turn something on, and another to turn it off.

We push buttons to cook our food, or cool or warm our homes or businesses.

We push a button for our entertainment, and if we don't like what we see or hear, we just push another button for something else.

Push this, turn that, tune this, adjust that, and we seem to refocus our lives.

Just imagine if there were this special computer that could reprogram anything in your life and give you your heart's desire; and all you had to do to get it, was to push or click on a certain button.

If you could do that, do you think you would be happy?

Or ... would you start pushing all the different buttons, as we do with the channel selector on our TV sets, to see if there was something better in store for you?

And where in all of this is our relationship with the Lord our God?

The answer is that God is not in this “give-me, give-me” approach to life.

Yet, I still submit to you that there is a button, of sorts, that is there for us to push that will give us true fulfillment.

Richard J. Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, calls this button a touchstone, and written on this touchstone is the word “submission.” He says, in part, that the touchstone for the biblical understanding of submission is Jesus' astonishing statement, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mark 8:34)

Now, if we are thinking of all the other buttons we could push, would we choose this particular button?

We like to think of self-fulfillment, but when we consider "submission," we envision self-denial.

How can we be fulfilled in all our dreams, if we deny ourselves anything?

When we think of denying ourselves anything, we quite often consider such things as self-hatred (I'm not worth it), or hatred of others (Because of them, I can't have it).

Probably one of the most striking statements about this is Luke's recording of Jesus' statement in his Gospel 14:26-27.

26. "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

27. "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."

If we just consider this statement as presented, but somewhat out of context, we could easily arrive at the commonly heard but false statement, "I don't want to become a Christian, because I won't be able to do the things I like to do."

So, by this statement we say that Jesus Christ isn't worth it, or that our salvation isn't worth it.

Now, let's turn back to Matthew 10:32-39 and put these statements back into context.

32. "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.

33. "But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

If we do not consider Jesus Christ of more value than our way of life, and are embarrassed to confess what we claim to be our faith before others, then He will deny us heaven.

Therefore, we must consider if heaven is worth more to us later, than our way of life is now.

And if we just leave this discussion here, we could easily understand how most people desire not to confess Christ as their Lord and Savior, both with their mouths and with their lives.

But self-denial of the things of this world, that are at variance with the ways of Christ, is simply a way of coming to the understanding that we do not have to have our own way.

Our happiness is not dependent upon getting what we want.

This attitude seems to place us in a position of conflict with the majority of the world around us – and it does – and it's exactly what Jesus says:

34. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

To the believer and follower, Jesus brings peace within, but outwardly there may be conflict, and a separation.

35. "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother in-law;

36. and a man's enemies will be the members of his household.

Isn't this situation quite common?

Some, or even one member, of a family desire to be in the presence of the Lord and in the fellowship of true believers who are doing everything they can to end the suffering and bring peace to the whole of creation (to our fellow human beings, to the other animals, and to the environment in which we all live).

And the remainder of the family members want nothing to do with Christ, or the Church, or compassionate living; and in this division there can be conflict.

But the conflict is not of Christ, but of the devil; for the devil doesn't want to lose those people he considers his.

So the ungodly fight with the believers.

Only false religions or religious beliefs fight with the non-believer.

True Christians extend unwavering love to everyone, in hopes that they will come to Christ.

For this is the only way that non-believers will come to push the correct button and receive the true fulfillment they have been searching for.

And the denial comes when they turn away from the warring and killing madness in this world that causes so much suffering and death to millions of our fellow human beings, and to billions of other animals.

Then Jesus explains more plainly what He means:

37. "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

38. "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

39. "He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it."

But this could still sound like we will have nothing left.

And that is not what Jesus is saying.

If we love Jesus more than the members of our family, then with His love we will be able to have even greater love for the members of our family than we thought we had before.

The same holds true for the whole of creation, which includes the things in our lives.

Self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth, and shows us how to realize it.

With Christ, we learn what it really means to love ourselves.

And as we're told in Leviticus 19:18, that is really the only way we will be able to love our neighbor:

18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.’

Self-denial is the only sure way to love ourselves, for it is this self-denial that gives us the freedom to give way to others. Fighting makes things worse. Quietness and peace quiets things down.

This is the basis of true love.

And true love is the basis of true fulfillment, which is worth far more than anything else in our lives. It all begins with our submission to God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If we are willing to give anything up without a moment’s hesitation, in order to go to be with the Lord, then we begin to appreciate what we have even more than before, just as we do with other people; for we realize it is a gift from God for our pleasure here.

And since we are of infinite worth, we no longer should desire to abuse ourselves or others, whether they are human or other animals; and we no longer should desire the things of this world that degrade us.

This is also what Paul reminds us about in Ephesians 5:15-21.

15. Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise,

16. making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

17. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

18. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

19. speaking to one another is psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;

20. always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

21. and be subject to one another in the fear [or reverence] of Christ.

If what we really desire is true fulfillment – and I believe that is what everyone wants – then what we have been talking about all ties together and will fulfill our heart's desire.

All any of us have to do, is look upon self-denial as the liberation it really is; for self-denial is the touchstone, or the button, of our submission to Jesus Christ.

And then, we have to be willing to push that button, for when we do, we will know what it really means to have true fulfillment.

Amen

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