To the men out there, have you ever been working around the house and needed a tool to help you?  And if you are near the kitchen, isn’t it just easier to grab a kitchen knife or fork to help fix whatever you are fixing?  What happens?  We end up bending the knife or fork and we try to bend it back and put it back into the drawer.  Now, I have never done this, but I heard other married guys do that [sarcasm].

Of course, days later when your wife goes to the drawer to prepare for guests, what does she notice?  A bent knife or fork.  What happens next?  She is upset and you are in an argument because you can’t be using kitchen utensils to fix the house.  It frustrates her.  It upsets her and she is left with a messed-up knife or fork.

This is a great analogy for how we tend to treat our lives.  Without knowing our purpose, we just jump into life with no clarity.  And if we aren’t careful, we can misuse our life.  It always leads to frustration and disappointment.  It always leads to us living a messy life.

I’ve done this.  I remember in my younger days I played basketball with passion.  In one three on three basketball tournament, I was so angry at a ref’s call, I punched the back stop that supported the rim.  I broke my wrist.  In the emergency room I wondered to myself, ‘How did I get here?’  That’s what happens when we misuse our lives.

I want to stop and ask you, have you experienced that in your life?  Have you ever wondered, what is the point of my life?  Or does my life matter?  Have you been worn down from life and feel depressed?  Do you feel like you have made so many mistakes that God won’t accept you?

I love the quote Sam gave us.

“Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason.  Without a purpose life is trivial, petty, and pointless.”  Rick Warren

Doesn’t that explain so many people today?  Don’t people report they struggle to know if they matter?  That’s why we are in a series called Do I Matter?

Let’s start with the foundation of life.  God loves you.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. MSG Ephesians 1:3

Try to wrap your mind around that.  Before earth was created, God knew your name and couldn’t wait to see you born.  That means you are not an accident or afterthought.  That means God deeply cares about you.  That means your life is significant.  In fact, Sam explained, God created you to last forever.  When you understand that, you will understand how significant you are.

What is our first and greatest purpose?  Worship.  And worship may not be what you think it is.  When we say worship, we don’t mean singing a couple of songs on Sunday morning.  It’s bigger than that.  It means trusting God in all the areas of your life.  Like a child standing on the kitchen counter jumping into their dad’s arms, we trust God with our lives and jump into His arms.  Let’s ask this quickly.  How are you at worship?  How are you at trusting God every day?  Do you find that you want to trust God but struggle to jump?  Trusting God is worshiping God.

Last week, Sam talked about your second purpose, community.  His talk was one of the best talks on the reality of community I have heard.  Sam talked about the tension of relationships in church.  He said that healthy community always starts with experiencing God’s love for us.  And if we don’t have that relationship with God, we can show up to church and wonder, what does the church have for me?  If we aren’t careful, we can substitute our relationship with God with programs, events, and people.  We can become people who attend church with wrong motives.  Remember how he explained the Acts 2 church community?  How did it start?  They were anointed with the Holy Spirit.  Such a great talk.

This week, we were created to become like Jesus.  Scripture says this.

23 You were taught to be made new in your hearts, 24 to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy. NCV Ephesians 4:23-24

Let’s start with a big principle that should forever change your understanding about your spiritual life.  Ready?

God’s goal for you is your character development, not your comfort.

This is very important to understand.  That means, God will allow you to walk through pain and struggle.

This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. MSG Hebrews 12:11

Same verse, different translation.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. NLT Hebrews 12:11

God allows us to walk through tough times and it will feel painful.  Why does God allow our struggle?  Because God is making us like Jesus.  This has a few implications.  First, if you didn’t know that or if you forgot that, life will be very frustrating for you.  Many people believe, if I give my life to Jesus, He is my ticket to make me healthy, wealthy, and more comfortable.  Then when troubles come, their faith is shattered.  Here is the truth.  God cares more about your character than your comfort.

Secondly, when we walk through tough times, we will want to ask, ‘WHY is this happening?’  A better question we need to ask is, ‘WHAT is God teaching me?’  Remember, God cares more about your character than your comfort.  Are you in Middle School, High School, or starting out in life?  As much as your parents may try to protect you and give you a perfect childhood, you will be hurt someday.  You will face challenges someday.  You will experience pain and struggle.  And it’s not a bad thing.  It develops you.  The best question you can ask, after you have time to feel your emotions, is, WHAT is God teaching me.  Parents.  I would really challenge you to think about how you are raising your children.  If you are doing everything for them, protecting them, removing all problems, you should ask yourself, I am I getting in God’s way as He tries to develop my child?

Third, when we go through dark times in our lives, know that God is right there even if you don’t feel Him.  God loves you deeply.  He cares for you.  He is absolutely there with you as you walk through dark times.

Remember, God is shaping your character to become like Jesus.  That is more important to Him than your comfort.  Let’s get more detailed.  How does God shape and mold us to become more like Jesus?  There is a ‘God’ part.  There is a ‘You part.’  And there is a ‘Life part.’  God will shape your character using those three things.

The ‘God part.’

As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him. TLB 2 Corinthians 3:18b

Let me ask you.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God wasn’t so invisible all the time?  Wouldn’t it be helpful if God gave us something tangible, something we can see, feel, and touch to help us walk through life?  He did.  It’s the Bible.

I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends. MSG Acts 20:32

The Bible IS God’s voice speaking to us today.  Because the Bible is God’s voice, it’s the ultimate authority in our lives.  It’s the ultimate source of truth.  It’s the ultimate guide to life.  It has the power of the Holy Spirit to help develop your character to become like Jesus.

One of the greatest things you can do today is read what God is saying.  To resist reading the Bible is turning God’s voice off.  It’s saying ‘No’ to God.  I saw a quote the other day.  “You can’t say God doesn’t speak when your Bible is closed.”

David wrote this.

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word.  10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you… 97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.  98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. NIV Psalms 119:9-11, 97-98

God is making us like Jesus.  Let’s ask a few questions?  Do you believe the Bible is the voice of God for you today?  Do you read the Bible?  Do you read it in different translations?  Is it a daily or weekly rhythm for you?  Do you live the kind of Christianity where you avoid the Bible?  Chances are you don’t believe scripture when it tells us, we will be blessed when we read it.  You don’t believe that God speaks to you through the Bible.  You don’t believe that reading the Bible will guide you through life.  You just don’t believe.  Chances are you are growing older but not growing up into spiritual maturity.  Chances are you are living in a spiritual cuddle-sac.  That means you find yourself doing the same things over and over and over with no real spiritual growth.  And living in that spiritual cuddle-sac will lead you to actually pull away from God.

7 Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.  NLT Joshua 1:7-8

The ‘God part’ is the Holy Spirit in you and the Bible.  Let’s talk about the ‘You part’.  Your part is effort.  Choices.  Obedience.  Faith.  To become like Jesus, it isn’t automatic.  To become like Jesus, you will have to be intentional.

A couple of summers ago our family was introduced to a lazy river.  That’s a river where you float on a tube, go in circles, and just keep looping all day long.  You don’t go anywhere, just in circles.  That can be like our spiritual journey when we embrace God’s grace but take no intentional steps to grow up spiritually.

Jesus explained the You part.

Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires your total attention. A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives. Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not on my guest list.’ MSG Luke 13:25

Here is a really important understanding about your spiritual life.

Your effort has nothing to do with your salvation.  However, your effort has everything to do with your spiritual growth.

Did you know that?  There are two parts to Christianity.  Part 1 we call grace.  It is what Jesus did.  Jesus did all the work and walked through all the pain for you to be saved.  You can’t save yourself.  Your effort has nothing to do with being saved.  Your effort is worthless if you are trying to save yourself or earn your way into heaven.

There is a Part 2.  We call that effort.  Choices.  Obedience.  Faith.  This would be our effort to grow spiritually.  Please hear me. If you want to grow spiritually, it doesn’t automatically happen.  You have to grow up after Part 1.  I want you to think about Christians today.  Where do you think most people live?  In part 1 or part 2?  Grace or effort?  Most people live in part 1 and stop.  Why?  It’s easier.  Part 1 doesn’t require intentionality or change.  This is why so many people call themselves Christians while at the same time not experiencing spiritual maturity.  They are floating through life from one event to another with no real spiritual depth.  Why?  They have learned how to believe in Jesus and enjoy grace while at the same time, not being fully surrendered in their lives to become like Jesus.

Think about your personal life.  What was modeled for you?  Did your parents show you how to give your life to God and then intentionally pursue God?  Has anyone explained how you become a disciple of Jesus?  Is it normal with your Christian friends to pursue God, walk with God, make choices to be holy?  Do your Christian friends talk more about what God is teaching them or the most recent gossip?

It is really important to decide to grow up into Part 2.  When someone is casual or indifferent about spiritual growth, they don’t understand spiritual things about today or eternity.

Remember how Jesus put it?

A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives.

God is shaping your character to become like Jesus.  That is more important to Him than your comfort.  So how does God do that?  There is a ‘God part.’  The means walk with the Holy Spirit and read your bible.  There is a ‘You part.’  That means, do what matters most and be intentional in growing up spiritually.  Let’s talk about the ‘Life part.’

The life part is what you deal with every day, 24 hours a day.  What do you face?  Problems.  Struggles.  Hurts.  Challenges.  Temptations.  Isn’t that life every day?

Peter and Paul wrote about it.

Dear friends, don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you. TLB 1 Peter 4:12

3 Also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. 4 And patience produces character, and character produces hope. 5 And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. NCV Romans 5:3-5

Here is a really important understanding about your spiritual life.

God uses life, your circumstances, to develop your character.

In fact, God uses your life more than the Bible to develop you.  Why?  Because you live life 24 hours a day.

What tends to happen as we live out life?  When things are good, when we are healthy and comfortable, we tend to forget about God – don’t we?  Church isn’t that important.  God is important but is kinda in the background.  Prayer isn’t really important – we can always pray tomorrow.  The Bible – maybe another day.  Then a crisis hits.  Life throws us a curve ball.  And that is what life does.  It sends us problems.  Struggles.  Hurts.  Challenges.  Temptations.

What happens then?  We get really serious about God.  The Bible.  Prayer.  Church.  We run to God.  Nothing gets our attention like crisis or struggles.  And when that happens, God is kind.

The Bible promises us God’s love.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. NLT Psalms 34:18

God allows life to happen.  And through life, God can shape and mold us.  How?  God shows us what is really inside us.  The Bible prepares us for when this happens.

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. MSG James 1:2-4

God allows life to expose what is on the inside of us.  Like a tube of toothpaste being squeezed, our challenges reveal to us, what is really inside us.  Pressure exposes our faith life.  Nothing like crisis and struggle reveals to us our true spiritual condition.  So, when you are squeezed by life, what comes out of you?  How do you respond to life?  To the leaders in your life?  How you walk through school?  To parenting?  To your marriage?  To your church?

God allows life to pressure us.  God also allows us to be tempted in life.  This is a really important understanding about your spiritual life.

Temptation is Satan’s number one way to destroy you but it’s one of God’s ways to develop you.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. NIV Hebrews 4:15

This tells us, Jesus was tempted in every way, just like us.  This is a big deal.  First, being tempted isn’t a sin.  So, if you are tempted, never feel ashamed or bad for being tempted.  Jesus was tempted too.  Being tempted isn’t a sign of weakness or immaturity or being a bad person.  It’s a sign that your enemy is trying to take you out.

Secondly, every time you are tempted, and you overcome it, you become like Jesus.

Third, with every temptation, God will give you an out.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. NLT 1 Corinthians 10:13

Lastly, in the daily devotional it explains the four steps to temptation that Satan uses to destroy us.  It’s pretty important to read and understand it.

How do we wrap this up?  You were created to become like Jesus.  It’s a process.  There is a ‘God part’ that includes the Holy Spirit and the Bible.  There is a ‘You part’ that means effort, choices, obedience, and faith.  There is a ‘Life part’ that includes problems, struggles, hurts, challenges, and temptations.

Last point.  This process will take the rest of your life.  So, relax.  Enjoy each day.  There are no short cuts.  It will take time.

These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! TLB Habakkuk 2:3

We were just at a family get together with a couple of babies and toddlers.  Those kids don’t just grow up into adulthood in six months.  It takes years and years.  It takes family, love, and challenges.  It takes setbacks, heart breaks, and successes.  The process of us growing up to be like Jesus is like that.  So relax and make intentional choices to grow up.