Seeking the Right Things

Intro: I recently discussed sermon themes with my brother Mike, who preaches in Port St. Lucie, FL. He does not usually preach “thematically”, but he said he is considering the first part of Psalm 119:37 as a theme for the year. “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things”. I wanted to steal from him, but it was too late. This is a very noble spiritual goal. If we could just learn to not want the wrong things. What do you want? What are you looking at?

I. Seeking the Right Things in Life: This world is full of people who want the wrong things. Not necessarily morally wrong things but those things that have no lasting value. This is not just about the irreligious unbeliever. Many Christians are stifled spiritually because they are pursuing the physical goals in life. Spiritual people became spiritual seeking the spiritual things over a long period of time.

Col 3:1-2 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

A. When I contemplate our tendency to be more physical (secular) than spiritual my mind is drawn back to Esau of the OT. He stands before us as the biblical spokesman for those who pursue the wrong things in life. You remember his legacy… Gen 25:29-34– 29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

1. Esau’s judgment of his predicament is a testimony to his estimation of what was important… “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”Keil & Delitzch states it this way…The only thing of value to him was the sensual enjoyment of the present; the spiritual blessings of the future his carnal mind was unable to estimate. In this he showed himself to be [be’beelos] (Heb. 12:16), a profane man, who cared for nothing but the momentary gratification of sensual desires, who “did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way, and so despised his birthright. The Hebrew writer admonishes Christians to be diligent toward holiness …lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.” (Heb 12:16) Interestingly, Hebrews also tells us that after Esau lost the blessing (again to the cunning of Jacob) that he sought to undo his decision, but could not. How many people have chosen to pursue material goals until those goals prove to be empty, and then they wish they had chosen differently? You will never become a spiritual person without seeking spiritual things.

2. The “right things” we are to seek are not simply right because they are spiritual. There are those things that speak to the spirit or inner man that are false and empty. The right things are right because they are from God – from His Spirit to our spirit. Therefore those who seek the right things in life constantly look into God’s word. Matt 4:4“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

II. Seeking What is Right with A View Toward Change: Many times, we do not get what we want. We want to be more spiritual, know more about God, have stable families, have obedient children, have the respect of other Christians, overcome sin that besets us, enjoy worship, have a strong church, etc. But wanting these things is not enough. God calls on us to actually change. You cannot change your life without changing yourself. In fact, you are the only one you can change! That call to change is called repentance.

A. Repentance is at the heart of the gospel message. Many of those who missed the message missed it here. Matt 3:7-10 – 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

1. How much does God expect you to change your life? Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3) He called upon the apostles to leave all that they had behind and follow Him. In the coming weeks we are going to study about the calling of the gospel. Make no mistake, God’s calling is a call to extreme change.

2. The inward change we should seek, and that God requires, is a work of the Spirit of God. It is by the Spirit that we put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13) But this transformation is not mystical or miraculous. It is the impact of God’s word on our spirit as we seek to please Him. The children of God are led by the Spirit of God. Consider the transformation of Saul of Tarsus – “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.”

III. Paying the Price: Matthew 19:16-22 16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. One of the most tragic events of Jesus’ ministry. There is no indication he ever received what he said he wanted. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” To him Jesus said, “If you want to enter into life… (v. 17)” and “If you want to be perfect… (v. 21)” Jesus never questioned this man’s intense desire to reach heaven, or be in the kingdom. But was he willing to pay the price? Was he willing to tackle the real obstacle, deep within himself?

A. Matthew 20:20-21“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

1. How did Jesus respond to this woman’s desire for her sons? We often note that the disciples’ expectations of the kingdom were amiss. They expected a physical kingdom. There were a lot of false notions and ideas behind their request. But Jesus does not spend his time correcting it here. Instead He focuses on their willingness to do what it would take to get what they said they wanted. They were mistaken about the nature of the kingdom, but they were also mistaken about the calling and spirit of their King. vs.22“You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” There was a price to pay to sit next to Jesus in the kingdom.

2. Matthew 16:24-26 –“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. {25} “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. {26} “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus tells us here that the desire to follow Him includes a willingness to suffer. How much? There are 3 directives in this verse:

a. “Deny himself” – Isn’t it ironic that we have to deny ourselves what we want to get what we want. The battle is with the desires of our own flesh (what we want).

b. “Take up his cross” – this is not speaking of some problem or difficulty that we have to live with (“can’t do anything about it, so it must be the cross I have to bear”) taking up our cross is accepting with Jesus the suffering (or death) that flows from doing the will of God. It is your choice – Jesus had a choice and so do you and I. What am I unwilling to give up?

c. “Follow me” – the imagery here is of following Jesus as He carried his own cross. Where did He carry it? All the way – He never put it down. You and I must be willing to do whatever it takes to be Jesus’ disciple.

IV. Live Without Excuses: In our pursuit of spirituality we are constantly challenged to live by principles. To make decisions based on morality alone. I will do this because it is right, not because it is convenient, popular, self-serving, or pleasing to others. But we will fail to accomplish what we want when we make exceptions to what is right.

A. Luke 14 – An invitation to a great supper – They all began to make excuses. Bought some land, bought some oxen, married a wife… They missed out on the blessing.

1. “If Only” (my husband would give me more support”, “I didn’t have to work so much”, “I wasn’t so busy”) I would read my Bible, attend more Bible classes, pray more, etc.

V. Obeying the Truth I Have: Phil 3:16 “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (NIV); One translation says… fully obey the truth you have.”This is what John describes as “walking in the light”. In John 2, it is the vital criteria by which I can judge my fellowship with God. It cannot say I have no sinned, or that I have never sinned. I can only claim fellowship on the basis of walking in the light.

A. It is easy for us to equate hearing with doing. James 1:22-25“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

B. Someone has said that God calls us to “seamless” life. So many times are religious life is separate from our daily life. Consider James 1:26-27“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” When our religion has little or no meaning in our daily lives; when it is seldom if ever thought about except when we attend worship two or three times a week; there is little hope that we will ever become more spiritual. Our religion is useless.

1. There are lot of people today who think religion is useless. They are turning away from the Bible and have no use for churches or Christians. We are not innocent in this. When they see how little the truths we claim to hold dear actually impact our lives, they draw a legitimate conclusion about our religion. But the opposite is also true. True Christians are a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. They are a powerful influence is society, and can truly make a worthwhile difference.

Conclusion: What do you really, really want? What steps are you taking to get it? Will you begin by obeying the truth that you know?