The Life You Always Wanted 1. Take a Step

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1 The Life You Always Wanted 1. Take a Step April 2-3, 2016 ******* I love hearing kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up. Sometimes they give really creative answers! One teacher said, I was expecting A Doctor or an Engineer kind of answer but one kid stood up and answered, "A Cab Driver." She asked him, "Why not a Doctor or an Engineer, but a Cab Driver?" He said, I want to drive around and teach the people who cannot afford to go to schools. That s a creative dream! Kids dreams for their lives at age 5 probably won t match what they want at age 25 or 45. But they have dreams! Sometimes we adults let our dreams fade. When we realize we don t have the vertical jump to play professional basketball, or that people don t want to learn algebra while taking a cab ride we move on to something more realistic. The life you always wanted is available. That s not just some motivational slogan. God s plan is for you to have a deeply satisfying life. Not an easy and pain-free life. That s not possible. Not a life where you get everything you ever want. That won t happen, either. But you can have a deeply meaningful and satisfying life. That IS attainable. The life you always wanted is available. The life you always wanted comes from spiritual growth. The result of growing spiritually will be a life that is deeply meaningful. Ephesians 3 is a prayer the Apostle prayed for the believers in the city of Ephesus - he was asking God to give them his best for their lives. He doesn t pray for them to have the coolest chariot, or the latest designer robes. He doesn t ask God to give them lots of money or a hot spouse. Those aren t bad things, they re just not the most crucial things. They won t ultimately satisfy us, either. He prayed for what would give them the life they truly wanted --- a life that God has in mind for us. Here s the prayer: Ephesians 3:16-21 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. This prayer says: - We can have strength and power in our inner being. - We can be rooted in love & know God s amazingly deep love ; - We can experience Christ in us and be filled with fullness of God

2 These are just some of the things that God intends for us. Whether we realize it or not, that is the life we ve always wanted. We want a life in which we are not wracked with insecurity or anxiety, because we are saturated each day with the awareness that we are deeply and wildly loved by God. We don t fear what people say about us because we are secure in the love of God. We don t desperately seek a partner so we can be validated as worthy. We know we re worthwhile because we experience God s love. We live it. We want a life in which we start each day knowing that what we are going to do is significant and meaningful - that when we go to bed at night we ll feel good about making a contribution to others. We don t have to fight off feelings of boredom or ask, What difference does this make? We don t have to chase money and position to prove ourselves. Instead, we are even surprised at the impact we ve had because God does more than we could ask or think through us. We want a life that is not full of regret and frustration, because for the thousandth time you ve just done what you said you d never do again, or said what you swore you never would. We want to be like Jesus. We don t want to fight a losing battle over habits we know hurt us and others. We want to feel good and not guilty about ourselves when we look in the mirror. We want the power to follow through on what we know is right. Whether we realize it or not, that s the life we really want! Sometimes we are not even sure it is possible for us to have that kind of life. But this passage tells us that it is. Paul is saying he is praying that the believers in Ephesus are going to experience this. But our lives don t naturally happen that way; it comes from God s work in us. We don t get the life we always wanted in one download the moment we make a commitment to follow Christ. Ephesians 4:13 Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Until we all reach means there is a growth process involved. The book of Ephesians tells us a couple of important things about spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is not automatic. Joining a gym doesn t automatically change our bodies. Wouldn t be nice if all you had to do was just sign up and then you d see your waistline start to shrink? But it doesn t work that way. Likewise, joining a church doesn t automatically change our spirits. Just becoming a member doesn t make us more like Jesus. Last weekend lots of people raised their hands (glow sticks) to indicate they wanted to follow Jesus. That was thrilling! But I know they won t automatically become like Jesus and find the life they ve always wanted. It s a vital first step, but then we have to take other steps in order to grow. Ephesians 4:15 we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. God s intent is that we will grow to be like Christ! And deep down, we want to grow. If we don t see it happening, we can feel disappointed. If we re honest, maybe some of us here today would say we aren t where we thought we d be. We ve been Jesus followers for a while and we thought we d be further along by now. We thought we d be

3 - praying more effectively - relating to others less selfishly - doing better with money, making a bigger difference. In short, we re not growing like we d hoped. But we can! In order to grow, we need to: 1. Take a step If you want the full life Jesus offers, you need to take a step. No one can do it for you. No pastor or teacher can make you grow spiritually. All we can do is teach and offer opportunities for growth. But each believer has to act on those and take the steps to grow. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-13 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all become mature. The role of the pastor and teacher is to equip the people to do what God calls them to do. And the result will be that we all become mature. Pastors equip, and the people take steps which lead to maturity. It is easy to get stuck spiritually. We re moving toward Jesus and maturity, but then something happens. We stop. We are no longer growing. And our first reaction is to say Somebody do something! [VIDEO- Just take a step! I believe God says that to us sometimes, Just take a step! Don t complain you re not growing, take a step and grow! No one can do it for you. No preacher can make you grow. A pastor can share God s truth in a way that doesn t make you fall asleep, which is good. But that doesn t result in growth. Spiritual growth is a result of what you do with the truth you ve heard. 2. Do it anyway I have a treadmill in my basement. After my cardiac arrest 5 years ago, I knew it was very important that I exercise. I Iike to run outside, but in Pittsburgh, between winter and rain, there are a lot of days that s not possible. I was a member of a gym, but it took extra time to drive there and back and wait for a machine. It wasn t always convenient. So I got treadmill in my basement so I wouldn t have an excuse. I can just walk downstairs and jump on any time. It is very convenient, and I am thankful for it. But can I tell you a secret? Sometimes I don t feel like doing it! Even though the machine is just a few steps down into my house, there are times I still don t want to do it. But growth means doing it anyway. If I only exercise when I feel like it, I probably won t do it very often. I exercise because I want the energy and stamina it brings me. I want the good feeling of endorphines flowing. Not to mention that I want my heart to stay healthy so I can live a lot more years. Sometimes we won t want to take a step Jesus is asking. But if we want the life he offers us, we need to do it anyway. This is what Jesus means when he says in Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. To be his disciples, there will be times we need to take a step of obedience even though it is not convenient. Jesus says, Forgive and we won t feel like forgiving

4 the person who hurt us. But if we don t, we will be infected with bitterness. But if we do it anyway, we will have inner freedom and joy. Jesus says, Pray. But sometimes we won t feel like it. But when we do it anyway we have more power and intimacy with God. Hey, I want spiritual growth to be convenient and easy. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is inconvenient. Sometimes we don t want to take the step Jesus is asking. To have the life we always wanted we need to do it anyway. 3. More steps leads to more progress Spiritual maturity doesn t come from taking just one big step. It is the result of one small step after another. Over and over again, doing what God calls us to do. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, there is always a next step. At Crossroads we have built our ministry around helping people take their next step in spiritual growth. We have designed a step-by-step process to help you grow and develop spiritually. Our goal is to send everyone with love and power into their world to make disciples. So we know we need to equip people to be able to go with love and power. I want to share this process with you now. We ve revised it a bit (we re always trying to be more effective). So this is the newest version. I ll give the steps to you in an order, but you can take the first few steps in any order -- you don t have to do them in the exact order I ll describe. Here is Crossroad s Equipping Track 1. Next Step After attending a worship service, the first step in the growth process is to attend the Next Step gathering. This used to be called Pizza with the Pastor. But we re changing that now so that it communicates the idea of taking steps. Plus, we can hold it at times when people don t feel like having pizza. So Next Step is the same content, just without the pizza! If you ve been to Pizza with a Pastor, you ve done Next Step. Next Step is 1 hour long, and is designed to give you the history and vision of Crossroads Church. You can ask questions, and learn about our values. Most importantly, we want to tell you how you can connect at Crossroads and start getting to know some other people and growing in your faith. It helps you know what your next step is. The next Next Step class will be next week April 9-10 during each of the worship services. 2. Following Jesus and membership come after going to Next Step. Following Jesus is the basic core class of Crossroads Church. We ask everyone to take it. It s held during worship service times and is 9 weeks long. It assumes nothing and starts from the beginning: Who is Jesus? It teaches about how to pray, how to read the Bible, what it means to follow Jesus. Following Jesus doesn t tell you everything you ll ever need to know about the Christian life, but it gives you a foundation to build on. It gets you going. After you take the class, you can become a member of Crossroads, if you want. So why should I belong to a local church? Will it make any difference? Fair question. After all, most of the ministries of the church are open to everyone

5 whether they are members or not. So why join? Some might say, I just want to follow Jesus, I don t want to belong to a church. Think of it this way: It wouldn t make sense for someone to say, I just want to play football, I don t want to be part of a team. Every football player needs a team, because football is a team sport. Every Christian needs a church family, because following Jesus is a team sport. You can t do it alone. There are over 50 one another commands in the New Testament, like bear one another s burdens, encourage one another, teach one another you can t do those is you aren t in connection with one another. Most of following Jesus is caught more than taught. We learn to do it by being around others who are on the journey. So to grow, we need to be connected with people around us who are showing us, encouraging us, challenging us. Church is not just an organization, it is a group of people who are yielded and following Jesus. 3. Small Group If you haven t already joined a Small Group by the time you finish Following Jesus, that s your next step. This is where we experience the church more fully. This is where we can do the one anothers. This is where we get to know people who can shape us and hold us accountable. This is where we join together with others to reach out. A small group is a network of relationships that grow spiritually, support each other and reach out. 4. Encounter Retreat This is a 28 hour experience of Jesus love and mercy. At the Encounter we experience Jesus love in fresh ways and open ourselves to the filling of His Spirit. It is a little hard to describe, because each person gets something different out it, but most people who attend it say it is one of the most spiritually impacting experiences of their lives. The Encounter prepares us to move ahead in the next steps of the journey. The next Encounter Retreat is August Now you re worshiping on the weekends and you re in a small group. You re growing as you re connected with others. The next step is 5. MD 1 MD stands for Making Disciples. This 6 week class is designed for those in groups to start to learn how to not only be a disciple, but to make a disciple. Eventually we will grow restless if we don t turn around and start helping someone else grow. It s like a spiritual glass ceiling - we need to reach out. MD1 has practical teaching on spiritual gifts and outreach, and how to partner with others to make disciples. 6. MD 2 This 6-week class is about how to make disciples as a small group leader. In order to be in MD2 you need to be not only in a small group, but be an apprentice group leader. Here you learn how to lead and help a group of people to grow. A few people will feel led to continue to develop in ministry, so we offer

6 other opportunities: Crossroads Training School This is 2 Saturday mornings per month for 9 months for those interested in ministry training at a deeper level. Some of our staff came on board after going through CTS. Church Planting Training Get equipped to plant a new church. So there s Crossroads step-by-step Equipping Track. We re always revising it as we learn more, but I like to say that a person can come through the doors for worship the first time not sure if they believe in God, and they can end up as a church planter in Mozambique! We are either growing forward or declining in spiritual maturity. Growing in Christ is a step-by-step process. I said yes to following Jesus one night when I was 17 years old. Never in a million years did I imagine that I would be standing in front of you today as a pastor. It is just the result of taking one small step of obedience after another. Most people are not called to be pastors. But we re all called to grow into Jesus abundant life one step at a time. So where are you on this Equipping Track? Are you ready to take your next step to grow and experience the life you ve always wanted? Take a moment and mark down on your outline what your next step is. My next step is: Let me pray for you now

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