PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
The Bible is a prophetic book that discloses some amazing facts about our future. When Christ returns He will wipe away all ill and evil and transform the earth into an unimaginable paradise. He will change our mortal bodies into immortal and perfect bodies. He will reward us with a mansion beyond our dreams in the capitol city of Heaven. He will crown us with the incredible opportunity to reign with Him throughout eternity. The future for Christians is simply beyond imagination! But while Christians live with heaven and its rewards in view unbelievers are consumed with cramming everything into the present. That’s why advertisers appeal to the present in their slogans:
Gatorade, the thirst quencher, asks “Is it in you?” When? Now!
Nike says, “Just Do It.” When? Right now!
American Express says, “Don’t leave home without it.”
One coffee ad says, “Life is short, stay awake for it.”
There are times when God uses the world to teach Christians a valuable lesson. The reason the world makes its offer now is because now is its only chance to compensate people. But Christians understand that God has blessings available for both now and eternity. And I want to affirm that God’s goodness is available today! The Bible says, He has blessings designed specifically for this life and if we don’t claim them now eternity will never allow us the opportunity to recover them.
There’s a Latin phrase that describes what I’m talking about. It’s Carpe Diem. That expression means, “seize the day; make the most of every opportunity.” And that’s how the Bible says we should live. Let me illustrate what it means to seize the moment.
(Illustration) Awhile back I read about a young soldier and his terribly obnoxious officer that traveled together by train. If you’ve commuted by train you know that some seats face each other. The men happened to sit across from a pretty young lady and her grandmother. There was an immediate attraction between the girl and young soldier and they talked for much of the trip. After several hours of traveling the train rumbled through a pitch-dark tunnel. About halfway through the tunnel two sounds were made: the smack of a kiss and the whack of somebody’s face getting slapped. When the train burst back into the sunlight there were four different thoughts. Granny was aghast and thought, “How dare that boy kiss my granddaughter. But he deserved being whacked for that kiss.” The officer thought, “It’s fine with me that he kissed the girl, but she didn’t need to slap me for it! The girl thought, “Great kiss but why did Granny have to slap the guy? Only the soldier new the truth; he had just seized the moment to both kiss the girl and slug his officer!
(Transition) Now that is seizing the moment! But what was Paul talking about when he said in our text that we should, “make the most of every opportunity”? That’s what I want to talk about. And the first way you can seize the moment is to ascertain your purpose.
I. Ascertain Your Purpose
Let’s begin by emphasizing verse seventeen of our text. Paul said: “do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Everything in creation, whether it’s plants, animals, nature or men have a reason for being. God created everything with a purpose—especially man. And God wants everyone to understand what their purpose is! Jesus said, “It is not everyone that says, “Lord, Lord” that enters the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father.” We have to faithfully respond to God’s purpose for their life if we expect to hear God’s voice say, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys I have prepared for you.”
(Example) As much as I dislike it, the IRS is the perfect example. They are crystal clear about recognizing their purpose. The IRS Handbook states the following: “During a state of national emergency resulting from enemy attack, the essential functions of the Service will be as follows: assessing, collecting, and recording taxes.” Let me interpret that. That means, should America suffer a nuclear crisis of biblical proportions, even though everyone is wringing their hands and choking on fear, the IRS will be undistracted by war or extremity and maintain their unflagging purpose—taking our money!
God wants people that clear about their purpose! And what is your purpose? The purpose of everyone here is to accept Jesus as your Savior and serve Him wholeheartedly. That’s what the Apostle meant in 2 Peter 3:9 when he said: “[It is not God’s will] for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul”?
You may have graduated at the top of your class.
You may be the rising star in your company.
Your name may glow in Fortune 500 or “Who’s Who.”
But if you are not committed to Christ you are not where God wants you and you are unable to make the most of every opportunity.
(Example) The primary purpose of a watch is to provide an accurate measurement of time. A diamond studded, gold buckled Rolex watch may look impressive and make a fashion statement, but if it’s broken it’s failed its purpose as a timepiece. A broken watch is only accurate twice a day . . . and that’s not acceptable!
We are not created “in Christ” to make a fashion statement or find our usefulness only on occasions. God wants us to glorify Him 24 / 7, 365 days a year!
(Illustration) During my freshman year at college I stayed in a dormitory known as Walker Hall. It was such a dump we dubbed it “Walker Hole.” I stayed on the third floor and each floor had a pastor. One day our floor pastor was sharing his Bible knowledge with several of us when he said something that sounded good but wasn’t altogether correct. He said: “I believe God wants us to tithe our time to Him just as we tithe our money.” That sounded spiritual but there was something about that statement that I couldn’t accept. Sometime later I realized what it was: God isn’t pleased with owning a mere tithe of our money any more than He is pleased with owning a tithe of our time. Giving God ten percent of our time, talents, resources, or heart isn’t what God wants. God wants us fully committed to Him!
(Bible Example) What if the boy with the lunch basket had held back just one fish or one slice of bread when Jesus called for it to feed the 5000? There wouldn’t have been enough.
When God calls for something we hold dear it’s not to deprive us of happiness. God is asking us to fulfill our purpose. He’s asking us to deny our self-centeredness—which could never satisfy us—and claim the joy and fulfillment that can only come when we give of ourselves. But the devil wants us to believe the opposite. He tries to convince us that we will lose by giving, when in fact, it’s just the opposite. We gain by giving. We find our purpose in life by giving.
Years ago I read a book by Jack Hayford, noted pastor and Chancellor of The King’s University. In it he wrote of the 5 ways God allows Believers to give and that create an atmosphere for the “abundant life” to flourish. Hayford says that God wants us to: “Give in, give up, give out, give over, and give to.”
For example. God wants Christians to:
Give in to His will.
Give up our selfishness and pride—something that will never make you happy.
Give out to His purposes.
Give over and above the minimal requirement.
And give to whatever He asks.
When we learn to live like this we will claim a joy that comes from giving that could never be claimed from withholding. Real happiness comes when we commit our life to Christ and serve Him with our love time and talents. That’s when we position ourselves to seize the moment and make the most of every opportunity.
(Transition) Paul also says something else is necessary for claiming the most from life. He says we should not only ascertain our purpose, but we should also Discharge the Past.
II. Discharge The Past
Philippians 3:13 says: “[this] one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” This Scripture tells us that our mind has a tremendous ability to retain and replay past events—both pleasant and unpleasant—especially unpleasant memories. But Paul said neither would control him. And remember, Paul had plenty of past mistakes that could have stripped him of peace and joy. He could have let Satan condemn him for how he persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed Christians. Paul was consented to stoning and killing Stephen—the churches first martyr. How would you like something like that on your conscience?
You see, there is a good reason we shouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on our past. Dwelling on the past prevents us from advancing. It’s alright to learn from our mistakes, but God doesn’t want them to immobilize us and prevent us from our usefulness. God wants us to accept the freedom of forgiveness, retake our position, and advance.
(Illustration) I grew up, for the most part, in Atlanta, Georgia. During that time I enjoyed attending Georgia Tech football games. One of the famous moments of Georgia Tech football occurred when Tech played California University in the early 1900’s. Late in the second quarter Tech fumbled and Roy Riegals scooped up the ball and ran sixty-five yards in the wrong direction toward Tech’s goal. His own player tackled him at the two yard-line. California attempted to punt from their end zone, but Tech blocked it and scored. At halftime the teams went to their locker rooms where Riegals burst into tears. But the coach never mentioned Riegals’ misdirected run. As a matter of fact, Riegals was told he would start the second half. But when the team charged back toward the field Riegals wouldn’t budge from the locker room. Understanding human nature as he did the California coach knew this experience could devastate Riegals. So the coach looked at Riegals, and with the sternness of a field general said: “Roy, the game is only half over. Get out there. You belong on the field.”
That’s what we should remember about our mistakes and failures. They don’t necessarily end the game, so when we run the wrong way or fall flat on our face, it doesn’t mean life is over. God wants us to get back on the field. God wants you to know that:
The Cross is greater than failure.
It’s greater than wrong decisions.
It’s greater than a divorce.
The Cross is greater than past addictions.
The cross is greater than any sin known to man.
Let me tell you something. When your sins are forgiven your sins are forgiven!
God said in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
He said in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Praise God!
(Transition) And that brings us to point three. We need to ascertain our purpose and dismiss our past but we must also, Deal with the Present.
III. Deal With The Present
Philippians 3:13 says: “[This] 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.” You see, it’s easy to coddle the pleasant memories of the past. And it’s exciting to fantasize about the future. But the present is the only place God can deal with us.
There are two things we must always remember: We can never change the past and we can’t live in the future today. Do you know someone that is always fantasizing about the future? They are always talking about what they are going to do? And their plans are big and dreamy. But that’s all; they are just fantasizing! And yet if we aren’t careful, we can be guilty of living like that too:
Some people say, “One day I’ll get serious about God.”
One day I’ll develop disciplined prayer and Bible study habits.”
“One day I’ll get involved in the Church.”
But God wants us to get serious about our place in His Kingdom and fulfill our destiny right now, “carpe diem”! The Bible says, “Today is the day of salvation.” Now is the time to repent and commit everything to Christ. Now is the time get serious about your place in God’s kingdom. God said in Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
Lazarus’ Death and Resurrection
There’s a great example of someone that wrestled with letting Christ into the “now” of their life in John 11. It’s the story of Lazarus’s resurrection.
(Example) Jesus heard the news of Lazarus’s sickness but waited four days before arriving. By then Lazarus was wound in grave clothes and sealed in the tomb. And when Jesus finally showed up Martha had a stinging rebuke for Him. Notice how she scolded Him. “Lord, if [only] you had been here, my brother would not have died” (21). Did you catch that? “If only you had been here.” She complained with that classic expression people employ when they yearn for what might have been. And we’re tempted to do the same thing:
“If only I hadn’t acted that way things would be different.”
“If only I had done a better job raising my children.”
“If only I had taken that job offer.”
“If only I had made two points higher I would have gotten that scholarship.”
The “if only” list is never-ending. Hey, everybody has regrets! But if you make “if only” the catchphrase of your life you’ll be anchored to the past and never advance.
You know what God wants you to do? Quit making yourself a martyr and kick the “if only” away from your life! You can’t redo anything! The force of time grinds forward and there’s no rewind button to hit. So, you missed a golden opportunity, what about the other 1500 promises in the Bible that God offers to make up the difference?
But here was Martha saying, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That’s when Jesus looked at her and said: “Martha, forget the past and “if only” I had been here earlier. Your brother will rise again.” And when Jesus spoke of the resurrection Martha did forget the past, but then her mind raced to the future and she envisioned Lazarus rising again years later. She said: “[Master] I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (24). Finally Jesus said: “Martha, I’m not talking about the future either. I am here to deal with the present; I can do something now! “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
And with that He wheeled around, poked His finger into the deep regions of death and said: “Lazarus, come forth.” And when Lazarus heard that command he saluted Father Abraham goodbye, jumped over the corpses in the tomb, and reentered the here and now fully alive!
Folks, God’s miracles of yesterday are wonderful!
. . . Speaking the universe into existence.
. . . Splitting the sea for Moses.
. . . Flattening walls for Joshua.
. . . Taming lions for Daniel.
. . . Healing the sick with Peter’s shadow and Paul’s handkerchiefs were all wonderful events!
The storied history of this Church is wonderful. And His future plans are beyond our imagination. But God wants into our present. He’s the God of today and He wants us working with him now! He’s wants everyone here to ascertain their purpose, dismiss the past, and passionately deal with the present. No excuses accepted. God wants action. Will you join Him and seize the day?
(Author’s Credit: The Outline of this message was adapted from a sermon by Steve May entitled, “Carpe Diem – Seize The Day.”)