We have made it to the last week of our series called Selfie. This has actually turned out to be one of my favorite series that we’ve done at Connect in a long time.
In this series, we’ve been poking a little fun at this whole selfie phenomenon. We’ve seen how the selfie has really proliferated our culture. It’s everywhere.
In fact, it’s so prevalent that ABC decided to create a TV show called Selfie. It debuted last fall. Does anybody remember that show? I’m not surprised. Apparently the show wasn’t exactly awesome, because ABC canceled it after it had been on the air just over a month.
Maybe that’s because, for a lot of people, the selfie is becoming old news. Even kind of annoying.
In fact, a team of researchers out of the United Kingdom found that people who post a lot of photos on social media are more likely to “run the risk of alienating friends, family members and colleagues.” Especially when those pictures are selfies.
One of the people who conducted this study was Dr. David Houghton. He explained: “People, other than very close friends and relatives, don’t seem to relate well to those who constantly share photos of themselves.”
It took a doctor to figure that out? It took an entire research team to study this? I think most of us could have told them that FOR FREE!
I’m not saying that you should never post selfies. In moderation, selfies are fun. But if you post multiple selfies everyday…here’s me in the kitchen, and here’s me on the couch, and here’s me doing my hair, and here’s me getting in the car…you might not have any friends. Don’t get mad at me about it. There’s an actual study done by really smart British people to back me up on this. Too many selfies are NOT a good thing!
But, like it or not, the selfie seems to be here to stay. That’s why we thought it would be fun to do a series here at Connect called Selfie. Yeah, we get to poke a little fun at the whole selfie thing, but more importantly, we’re opening up the Word of God to see some Biblical “selfies.” We’ve been exploring what God has to say about self.
Today, as we wrap up the series, we’ve saved the best for last. Today we’re going to see that God has promised to give us a new self.
Let me pray for us, and then we’ll jump into the last message in our Selfie series.
Most of us get excited about the idea of new. We want new. We hunger for new. We’ll stand in line for new. We anticipate new. And we will make an investment in new.
For example, last week, I would have given my right arm for a new sound system. Remember that? That was not awesome. And my throat is definitely not accustomed to shouting for half the message. I felt that the rest of the day. Standing on this stage last week when everything just died, if someone would have said, “Here’s a new sound system,” I would have said, “Sold!”
Actually our sound system is awesome. We just had a computer that decided to go crazy on us, which locked everything up.
But at that moment, I would have jumped at a new sound system.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife went to see the new movie Insurgent. So let me get this straight. So far, there’s been Divergent. And now there’s Insurgent. So what’s next? Detergent?
Seriously, she was really excited about this new movie. Every time the trailer was shown on a TV commercial, she would stop whatever she was doing and watch it. Something new was coming, and she couldn’t wait.
Most of us get like that about something. I wasn’t excited about the new Insurgent movie, but I’m pretty stoked about the new Paul Blart movie. Different movie, but same thing. I’m excited about it because it’s new.
That’s why we approach church the way we do here at Connect. We believe that church should look like a party, not a funeral. It’s a celebration. It’s something to get excited about. If you wonder why our services are high-energy and loud and passionate, that’s why. Because church is something to get excited about.
I honestly don’t understand Christians who don’t get excited about gathering with their church. Either there is something wrong with their church or there is something wrong with them. When the church gathers, God shows up. And that gets me fired up, because God makes everything new. If you get excited about new stuff, then there is nothing more exciting than God because that’s exactly what He does. He makes everything new.
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John was given a vision of heaven. He wrote it down and it became the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation. And chapter 21 is my favorite part of the book.
Here’s what John saw and heard. He wrote, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, NIV)
God said, “This is what I am doing. You can write it down because it is trustworthy and true. Write this in ink. Carve it in stone. You can bank on it. This IS what I am doing. I am making EVERYTHING new.”
And here’s what this is such great news for us. God is making everything new, and that includes you and me.
This series has really been all about practical, nuts-and-bolts Christianity. We’ve talked about things that all Christians struggle to get right. Things like selfishness, self-control, self-denial, and self-righteousness. There were parts of each message in this series that were not easy to preach and they were not easy to hear.
But like I said, we’ve saved the best for last. The great news is that God is creating in us a new self. He is making everything new, and that includes us.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. [Actually a better translation would be abusive language, using language to hurt other people.] Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10, NIV)
Paul lists all kinds of sinful things that used to be part of our lives. But then he says that this stuff has no place in our lives anymore “since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
The stuff from our old self has no place in our new self. In fact, Paul doesn’t say, “Get rid of all this stuff.” He says, “Put it to death.” Stuff like sexual immorality, and lust, and greed, and rage, and slander, and lying have no place in our lives once we surrender to Jesus. That’s part of our old self. It has no place in our new self.
Which sounds great. Sounds awesome. Sounds spectacular, except for one little problem. None of us have fully overcome these things, have we?
Are you telling me that you’ve totally overcome lust in your life? You’ve totally killed off every evil desire in your life? There is not a hint of greed. There is not even a trace of slander (or maybe this word works better: gossip)? The thought of lying never even enters your head? You never, ever use abusive language. You never say a word that tears someone down, but only use words that build others up.
Are you telling me that you can honestly say all that? If so, then you need to find a new church because the only thing you’re going to do is make the rest of us feel bad.
Do you see the problem? Paul said that these things have no place in our new self. Our old self and all its practices is supposed to be dead and buried and gone. And yet, these things from our old self still seem to find their way back to our new self. And we feel like a loser Christian. We feel like a complete failure.
But there’s a key truth that we’ve missed. Look again at what Paul said.
He wrote, “…you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10, NIV)
He didn’t say that our new self has been renewed. He said our new self is being renewed, meaning it’s still going on. It’s still happening, right now. It is not yet complete. The job is not done yet. The work is going on even as we speak.
Go back to what God said in Revelation 21. He said, “I am making everything new!” He didn’t say, “I have made everything new.” It’s not past, it’s present. It’s something that He’s doing right now.
So let’s talk about this process where God is making us new, where He is creating a new self in us.
The theological word for the process is sanctification, which I’m sure is a word that you use everyday.
Last week we talked about justification. To be justified means to be declared legally innocent by God. It means our sins are wiped out, gone, and remembered no more. And we talked about how justification is immediate. When a person surrenders their life to Jesus, they are immediately justified before God. They are immediately declared, “Not guilty!” It is immediate.
Sanctification doesn’t work that way. Justification is when God declares us, “Not guilty!” Sanctification is the process by which we start living lives that look more and more like Jesus. It is the process of us becoming like Christ.
But where justification happens in an instant, sanctification happens over a lifetime. Justification is completed instantaneously. Sanctification won’t be completed until we are on the other side of eternity. It’s a never-ending process in this life that starts with our baptism.
Listen to what Paul wrote in Romans 6. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:1-7, NIV)
Baptism is where we are symbolically buried with Christ. Jesus died FOR our sin, and in baptism, we die TO our sin. Paul said that our old self is crucified with Christ and just like Jesus rose to life again, we are given a new life, a new self. And Paul said that after our baptism, we are no longer slaves to sin.
But he didn’t say that we never will sin. Sin no longer has mastery over us, but it doesn’t leave our lives automatically or instantly. The waters of baptism aren’t the finish line. It’s the starting gate. It’s the beginning of sanctification. It’s the beginning of a new life. It begins the process which will unfold for the rest of our lives.
So when it comes to sanctification, you’ve got to take the long view. If you’re frustrated with where you are in your walk with Christ, if you feel like you’ll never get it, you’re always a failure…take a look back. Look to the past. Look at who you used to be. And then ask yourself, “How am I different now? How far have I come?”
Now, if you’ve been a Christian for years and you really haven’t changed, if there is really no progress at all, there’s a real problem. At that point, you have to really wonder if you really have a relationship with Christ at all.
But for most of us, if we’re honest, we can see the progress. And that’s what God is looking for. He’s looking for progress, not perfection. Progress, not perfection.
But a lot of times, we convince ourselves that perfection is what is required, and we just set ourselves up to fail. Think about it.
You believe that a Christian should read their Bible. I’ll go along with that. I vote yes. But let’s say that you’re not reading your Bible at all, right now. And you have this goal of perfection in your mind, so what do you do? You say, “From now on, I’m going to get up at 4:00 am every day and I’m going to read my Bible for two hours.”
And then the alarm goes off. And what happens? You fail, don’t you? Or ok, maybe you’re really committed and you actually do it. You get up at 4:00 am. You open your Bible and you start reading. You’re so tired that you don’t even know what you’re reading, but you’re reading. And then you’re exhausted the rest of the day. You’re irritable and you’re short with people and you’re just a real joy to be around. Boy, that Bible reading did you a world of good, didn’t it?
What would be the more realistic approach? The more realistic approach is progress, not perfection. If you’re not reading your Bible at all, set a goal to read it for 5 minutes during a time of day that actually works for you. And you think, “5 minutes? That’s nothing! What good will 5 minutes do?”
You know what? It’s 5 minutes longer than you read your Bible yesterday. It’s progress. And that’s what God wants for us. He wants progress, not perfection.
If perfection was the requirement, then Jesus is the only one who satisfied it. The rest of us are toast. But because the perfect Christ was the perfect sacrifice for our sin when He died on the cross, we are set free. We don’t have to live under the burden of perfection. We are free to simply love our God who loved us first. And when love is the motivator, progress is always the result.
I’ve been married for almost 18 years. And I’d like to think that I’m a better husband now than I was when Nicki and I first got married back in 1997. If you asked my wife, I’m pretty sure that she would tell you that I’ve improved, that I’ve made progress in being a husband. I’m not perfect. Believe me, I’m not perfect. If you asked her that, she’d tell you that, too. I’m not perfect, but I’m making progress.
And the reason I’m making progress is love. Nicki has already professed her love for me. I’ve already professed my love for her. The love is already there. It doesn’t have to be earned. I don’t have to work to make her love me. The love is already there. And love is the fuel for progress.
For example, I do things around the house now that I didn’t do 18 years ago. You know why? Because I know that she likes it. She appreciates it. It makes her happy. I’m not doing it to make her love me. Like I said, the love relationship is already established. I’m not doing it to make her love me. I’m doing it because she loves me and because I love her.
That’s the motivation for true progress. And the same thing is true in our walk with Jesus. We make progress, not to make Him love us, but because He loves us and because we love Him. Love is the catalyst for progress.
And when love is motivating our progress, here’s the question that we’ll always be asking.
What’s my next step? That’s the question that every single one of us need to constantly be asking? What’s my next step? What is the next step that is going to bring me even closer to Jesus? What is my next step?
Again, we need to keep the perspective of progress, not perfection. The question is not, “What are my next ten steps?” “What are my next 50 steps?” It’s much simpler and more realistic than that. What is my next step?
Instead of focusing on the next milestone, instead of focusing on the next mountain to climb, we need to focus on the next step.
Now, we’re all in different places spiritually. Some of us have been following Jesus for most of our lives. Some of us, not quite as long as that. Some of us are brand new Christ-followers. Some of us haven’t surrendered to Jesus at all yet.
We’re all in different places, but we all have something in common. We all have a next step.
Our church is committed to that truth. In fact, if you go to our website, connect.cc, we have an entire page devoted to next steps. Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like.
And if you scroll down the page a little bit, here’s what it says. “Maybe you’re wondering what your next step is. Faith in God is more of a journey than a destination. No one can ever claim that they have ‘arrived.’ Our church is all about connecting people to God, which means we’re all about helping people discover their next step.”
And just in case you’re wondering, we actually believe that. That’s not just something that sounds good on a website. We really believe that.
And then, you’ll see 8 different next steps listed. This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list of next steps, but it’s pretty good. For a lot of us, there’s a very good chance that our next step is actually on the screen right now.
For some of you, maybe it’s at the very top. Your next step is to just commit to come to church. You’re here today, but you’re really hit-and-miss. It’s nothing consistent. Maybe you’re not even sure about all this Jesus stuff, but you really want to find out. Your next step is just to make a commitment to come to church on a regular basis. Keep coming. Keep seeking. That’s a next step, and it’s doable. That’s the key. It’s something you can actually do.
Maybe your next step is baptism. We talked about that earlier. You’ve been coming to church for a while. Maybe a long while, but you’ve never surrendered to Jesus in baptism. We already saw in Romans how baptism is where we unite with Jesus’ in His death and resurrection. Plus, Jesus Himself was baptized to set the example for us. So the question is, what in the world are you waiting for? I’m not mad or anything like that. Not at all. I just want you to be honest with God and be honest with yourself. What are you waiting for? If this is your next step, you know what? You can do that. It’s doable. Just come talk to us after the service and we’ll get everything set up and ready to go for your baptism.
Maybe your next step is partnership. Our church doesn’t have members. We have partners. And the reason is simple. Members have rights, but partners have responsibilities. Partners give. Partners serve. Partners pray. Partners are active in helping Connect live out our vision and mission. And if you’ve been coming for a while but you’ve never officially declared that you’re all in with Connect, today can be the day when you take your next step. We’ve got partnership cards at the Connect Center that you can fill out. You can become part of the amazing move of God that is happening right now here at Connect.
Maybe your next step is telling others. As followers of Jesus, we are called to introduce more people to Jesus. Maybe that’s your next step. If so, then you need to leave with one of these today. This is an invitation to our Easter service next week. Our Easter service is going to be off-the-chart awesome! And this is a simple invitation that you can give to someone to invite them to come to church with you next week. Yes, that can be a little awkward and uncomfortable. But you know what? It’s doable. That’s a next step that you can actually take.
Maybe your next step is get involved in a Connect Group. We still have groups that have open spots. Maybe you’ve been putting that decision off, because it’s just a little out of your comfort zone. I get that. I’ve told you before, I’m an introvert by nature. I understand those feelings. But I also know that the life that God has planned for us is only found in authentic community. You can register for a group on our website. You can see Brian Morrissey afterward if you have questions. But if this is your next step, the opportunity is right in front of you.
And those are just a few examples. The point is that all of us need to be asking the question, “What’s my next step?”
And again, keep in mind what we’re talking about. We’re talking about next steps because we’re talking about progress. We’re not talking about perfection.
We’re talking about progress because we have a God who is creating a new self in us. No, we’re not going to be perfect. Yes, we are still going to fall short. We’re still going to sin. But we are being renewed, a new self is being created in us, by the God who loved us enough to give up His own Son for us.
And that work that He is doing in us will eventually come to completion in eternity.
I love the way Mark Moore put it. If you’re a Christian, you know that Jesus has redeemed your soul, but sometimes your body has trouble keeping up. You know the right thing to do, but you don’t always do it. Do you know why that is? Because Christ has transformed your mind and soul, but He has not yet transformed your body. But the good news is, He will.
In Philippians 3, Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV)
We all have a sin problem in our body, because our bodies have not yet been changed by the cross of Christ. But they will be. We will be given a new body that is fit for our new mind. If you’ve ever wondered if you’ll be perfect in heaven, the answer is yes. Because the work of the cross of Christ, the work that Jesus is doing in us, is not yet finished. But in eternity, it will be.
That’s why earlier in Philippians, Paul wrote, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6b, NIV)
God always finishes what He starts. And He has started a work in us. He has started creating a new self in us. This process that we call sanctification is not finished yet, but it will be. We are not perfect yet, but one day we will be. The struggles and the hardships and the trials of life are not finished yet, but one day they will be. And this work that God is doing in your life is not finished yet, but one day it will be.