What’s your sign?

24 11 2007

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This is the text of a devotional I gave on Thanksgiving to a group from our church while in El Paso. We were there on a mission trip to Juarez. What an amazing thing to see God work to bring people from churches all over to feed over 20,000 in the Ciudad Juarez area over just a few days.

What’s your sign?

Now, before you start to think less of me, I’m not talking about your zodiac sign. I’m curious about the one statement that serves as a reminder for how you will live your life each day.

Hanging at the end of the stairway that leads from the locker room to the field at Notre Dame’s football stadium is a sign that reads “Play Like a Champion Today.” Now, I know that Notre Dame football is not today what it was when Lou Holtz hung that sign, but my point – as you might imagine – goes beyond football success.

When Lou Holtz took over as head football coach at Notre Dame, he read a lot of books about the school’s history. In one of those books, he came across a picture of an old sign that hung in the Notre Dame locker room. He had a replica of the sign made and hung in that stairwell – then he asked all of his players to hit the sign on their way to the field.

Said Holtz: Regardless of the won-loss record, regardless of the problems you have, when you walk out on that field you have an obligation to your teammates and the fans to play to the best of your ability – to play like a champion and to think like a champion.

But, I also asked my players that every time they hit that sign, to think about all the sacrifices your family has made; your teammates made in high school; the sacrifices your teachers have made; and you also think of the thousands of people who would love to be in your position. Just think about how fortunate we are.

“All of these thoughts should go through your mind when you hit that sign – `Play Like A Champion Today’.”

In John Piper’s recent book, “Don’t Waste Your Life”, he writes of a sign that hung above the sink in his kitchen growing up. He reflects in the book that the words on the sign worked their way into his psyche during his formative years – so much so that the very sign now hangs on the wall by the front door of his house, where it serves as an every-day reminder.

The sign reads:

Only one life;

‘Twill soon be past;

Only what’s done

For Christ will last.

How about a someone from the Old Testament – Joshua? Joshua – whose name means Jehovah is his help; or Jehovah the Savior. Joshua was a mighty warrior for God. He was Moses’s successor – he brought God’s people into possession of the promised land. After bringing the people into the promised land, Joshua made it clear to the people that they had to make a decision. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua tells the people:

But if it doesn’t please you to worship the Lord, choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.

Now, Joshua knew that the people needed to, had to, make a choice for God – Joshua was wise and he knew that they had to make the decision. Joshua knew that his knowing the right choice was no substitute for the people making their own choice. With that in mind, I think it would be good to see how that challenge played out…

Verse 16 continues… “The people replied, “We will certainly not abandon the Lord to worship other gods! 17 For the Lord our God brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, the place of slavery and performed these great signs before our eyes. He also protected us all along the way we went and among all the peoples whose lands we traveled through. 18 The Lord drove out before us all the peoples, including the Amorites who lived in the land. We too will worship the Lord, because He is our God.”

Do you see the parallels here to what Christ has done for us? Brought us out of slavery, He protects us and has made for us a home – a home where we will be eternally safe and eternally joyful.

Continuing in verse 19:

19 But Joshua told the people, “You will not be able to worship the Lord, because He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not remove your transgressions and sins. 20 If you abandon the Lord and worship foreign gods, He will turn against you, harm you, and completely destroy you, after He has been good to you.”

21 “No!” the people answered Joshua. “We will worship the Lord.”

22 Joshua then told the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship the Lord.”

“We are witnesses,” they said.

23 “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and offer your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

I think it is important to point out that the Bible is the progressive revelation of God. There was a purpose in God’s approach to the Israelites in Joshua’s time. We are blessed to be able to look back at the cross. The Israelites in that time looked forward to the cross – but they had to make a choice, just like we have to make a choice.

I believe Joshua’s sign might read, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

As we’re about to embark on a mission trip, I thought it would be appropriate to look at what one of the first missionaries might have as his sign. In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit specifically calls Paul (who is referred to in this passage by his pre-Damascus road name, Saul) to missionary work. And we know that Paul traveled extensively for Christ – setting up many churches and witnessing to countless early Christians. In Philippians 3, Paul tells us about who he was before Christ – a connected and accomplished man by all 1st century standards. But Paul tells us that all that was a gain to him in his former life, he considered a loss because of Christ. In Romans, Paul tells us that if we will put to death those things that make up our former self, we will find life in Christ. Life through Christ. What is Paul talking about here? Is it WWJD? A conscious effort to determine what Christ would do as we go about our lives and then live accordingly. Sure, intentional living is important in our Christian walk. But I believe that Paul’s sign would signify more than that. I believe his sign would resonate the core of his belief.

Galatians 2:20 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. In Galatians, Paul writes to the churches in Galatia to remind them of the true Gospel. Paul says at the end of verse 19 – “I have been crucified in Christ.” Then in verse 20, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” I think Paul’s sign might say “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

So, what does it mean to say that we no longer live, but that Christ lives in us? What does that look like on a practical level?

Very simply – it means that the you in the flesh – you without God – stops living. But by crucifying your old self, you get a life that is unfathomable in its depth and satisfaction. Christ told us that He came so that we may have life – and have it abundantly. Life with Christ is life.

In John 15, Christ tells us that if we abide (or dwell or live) in Him, He will abide in us. So how can we abide or live or dwell in Christ? It starts with simply asking Christ into your heart – every day, even multiple times throughout your day. There are many spiritual disciplines that you can live that will draw you nearer to God – prayer, daily quiet times spent talking to God, listening and reading your Bible, fellowshipping with fellow Christ followers, worshiping. But the message I want to convey in this devotional is very simple. Get a sign. Really. Put it somewhere that you will be reminded of who you are. You were bought with a price. God’s amazing love and grace has saved us. But we live in a fleshly world – a world where Satan exists. Satan has a simple goal – he wants to keep you from realizing the life that God intends for you. That life is yours for the taking, but God’s plan involves us living in our faith moment by moment.

So, to borrow from Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption – Get busy living or get busy dying. Pick your sign and then live your life by it – every moment of your life. Let God know you can’t live without Him in control. Tell Him you can’t. It’s that simple. You may be able to fake it for a while. Satan may deceive you into thinking you have things licked. But, don’t be deceived.

Let’s look back at Lou Holtz quote about the sign at Notre Dame, but in a little different way:

“Regardless of your present circumstances, regardless of what others say or do to you, when you wake you have an obligation to your God and to your family to live your life to the best of God’s ability – to live a life that is Christ living through you.


“But, also every time you see your sign, think about the sacrifices Christ made for you; Christ left heaven for you – He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of man – He humbled Himself by becoming obedient – to the point of death – even death on a cross ; and also think of the millions of people who need at their very core to be in your position. Just think about how fortunate we are.

 

“All of these thoughts should go through your mind when you see your sign — ‘Live’.”

 

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