Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses James 1:14-15, Luke 14:21-24, Hebrews 1:1-3, John 1:14 Downloads & Resources Our Future Dr. Jon Morrissette - 12/8/2002 One of my favorite stories is the story of Daniel Ruitteger. Daniel was the son of an oil refinery worker and the third of fourteen children. As a child he didn’t show much promise. Throughout high school he struggled with a "D" average and graduated with a 1.77 grade point average. His education troubles were partly attributed to dyslexia, but he remembers the day he gave up on education. A teacher humiliated him in front of his entire class by telling him that he was dumb. One of his favorite things to say is, "I finished third in my class. Not from the top, but from the bottom." As a senior Daniel began dreaming of going to Notre Dame to play football. His first problem was that he was 5'6" tall and didn’t even weigh two hundred pounds. He wasn’t built like the other football players at Notre Dame. His other problem was that Notre Dame didn’t accept "D" students for admission. After flunking out of a semester of junior college, Daniel became disillusioned and went into the Navy. The Navy was a turning point. He learned that he wasn’t dumb after all and that he could be responsible. After leaving the service he returned to Joliet to work in a power plant. Despite the criticism of his family and friends, Daniel soon left Joliet for South Bend, Indiana. This is the city where Notre Dame is located. He spent two years at Holy Cross College, a college affiliated with Notre Dame. There he earned a 4.0 average every semester before he was eventually accepted at Notre Dame. At Notre Dame Daniel "Rudy" Ruitteger tried out for the football team and was made a "scrub." His job was to help the "real" players prepare for the games. Rudy made the best of his low position. He worked hard. Eventually he made his way from the bottom of the scrubs to the top of the scrubs, the sixth string. He worked just as hard during his senior year at Notre Dame. And then in the final two plays of the last game of his last season, he got to live his dream. The coaches put him in the game. With the crowd chanting, "Rudy! Rudy!", Rudy missed his first tackle. But on the last play he was more determined than ever. And as soon as the ball was hiked he put a move on a lineman and managed to sack the quarterback. As the crowds roared the team raced out and carried Rudy off the field. He was the only player in the history of Notre Dame to be carried off the field. The story of Daniel "Rudy" Ruitteger was popularized by the film "Rudy". Today Rudy is a motivational speaker who tours the country inspiring everyone from children to business executives with the message, "Yes, you can!" For fun I went to Rudy’s website and listened to clips from his motivational talks. I didn’t hear anything profound. What I heard over and over was a basic challenge. Make a decision to change, to grow, and to be stretched. Make a decision to not be a prisoner of your past, of other people’s misjudgments, or of your limitations. As we wrap up this series this morning I wonder what kind of obstacles are standing in your way as you pursue spiritual growth. One of the greatest obstacles to growth is perpetual, unconfessed sin. In "The Christmas Story" children gather at the school playground on a snowy day. One child tells the story of a kid who got his tongue stuck on a flagpole, adding that the fire department had to be called to help the poor boy. On a triple-dog dare one of the children, Flick, agrees to put his tongue on the flagpole— and it actually sticks! Flick screams, "Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!" At once, the children abandon Flick and race toward the warm classroom. Once in the classroom the teacher inquires about Flick’s whereabouts. No one has the guts to say a word until finally a little girl points out the window. The teacher is horrified at the sight of Flick’s tongue being stuck to the flagpole and the school is forced to call the local police and fire department. After Flick returns to the classroom the teacher addresses the class with a shaming tone. "I know some of you put Flick up to this, but he has refused to say who. But those who did it know their blame, and I'm sure that the guilt you feel is far worse than any punishment you might receive. Now don't you feel terrible? Don't you feel remorse for what you've done? That's all I'm going to say about poor Flick." Still no one confesses. Everyone sits silently, but we hear Ralphie, the main character, as he silently muses, "Adults loved to say stuff like that, but kids knew better. Kids knew (very) well it was always better not to get caught." We sometimes laugh about unconfessed sin, but the Bible tells us that sin is terribly destructive. James 1:14-15 (NIV) says, "...but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." We cannot allow the power of sin to grow and gain greater control of our hearts because ultimately, sin leads to death. Confession disarms the power of sin by bringing it into the light. The light always dispels the darkness. Whatever short term gains we think we are receiving by ignoring our sin will be eclipsed by the ultimate consequences of letting sin run rampant in our souls. One unconfessed sin leads to more unconfessed sins. Another major obstacle to growth is misplaced commitments. I bought a book several years ago entitled Building High Commitment in a Low Commitment World. The book is outstanding, but I totally disagree with the premise of the title. I reject the premise that we live in a low commitment world. All of us are highly committed people. There are no high or low commitments, only misplaced commitments. Our commitment to spiritual growth must be a top priority every day. This past week our church secretary made an interesting statement. She said, "For some people, the Sunday morning worship service is their faith." That struck me as an odd statement. The more I thought about it, the more true it seemed. So often we fail to make a serious commitment to spiritual growth beyond the Sunday morning hour. We are full of good intentions, but those intentions never impact our calendars. Our intentions are weakened by family obligations, work schedules, church activities, rest and relaxation, and television programming. Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief and ask myself, "Where did the day go? Here it is evening already and I haven’t yet cracked my Bible, or prayed, or…" If we do not realign our priorities to include spiritual formation, we will not grow. In Luke 14 Jesus tells the parable of the great banquet. A man prepares a great banquet and invites many guests. When the feast is ready he sends his servant out to tell those he invited to come. But everyone begins to make excuses. One man says, "I just bought a field, and I need to go check it out. Excuse me." Another says, "I have just bought a yoke of oxen, and I’m going to see them. Sorry!" Still another says, "I just got married, so I can’t come. Family first!" After the servant reports back, the owner of the house becomes angry and sends his servant out saying in Luke 14:21 (NIV), "Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." And he continued in Luke 14:24 (NIV), "I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet." There is a time for family obligations, work commitments, and church activities. But not at the expense of that which is most important which is communing with the heavenly Father. You are the only person who can determine your priorities. So what will your priorities be? Will you make excuses or will you join in the heavenly banquet? A third major obstacle is misinformation about God. Christmas is all about honoring the birth and life of Jesus Christ. John 1:14 (NIV) tells us that Jesus came from the Father, "full of grace and truth." Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV) tells us, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Why did Jesus come to earth? Why Christmas? Jesus essentially came to correct all the misinformation concerning the nature of the heavenly Father. One theologian put it this way." Jesus was the audible, visible word who expressed the heart of the inaudible, invisible God. Jesus Christ is God's great visual aid." In the third century, Origen had a great analogy he used to explain. He told of a village with a huge statue that was so immense that you couldn’t see exactly what it was supposed to represent. Finally someone miniaturized the statue so that everyone could see the person it honored. Origen said, "That is what God did in his Son." Paul tells us that Christ is the self-miniaturization of God, the visible icon or image of the invisible God. In Christ, we have God in a comprehensible way. In Christ, we have God’s own personal and definitive visit to the planet. The Bible is our source of correct information about God and Jesus. The Bible is where God reshapes our understanding and knowledge, where he changes our values, deepens our convictions, and fortifies our faith. Whenever we become disconnected from the word of God, we begin to shrivel spiritually. Whenever we stay in the word and remain connected to the vine, we thrive. Is this coincidence? No. God gave us the word to nourish our faith. A fourth major obstacle is an untrained physical body. Our bodies are a like a lump of clay in a potter's hand. Our bodies conform to, reflect, and are conditioned by our inner spirit. Our bodies can be conditioned in any number of ways. Our bodies can be conditioned toward busyness. This is why some people can’t sit still for five minutes. They are always running here and there, doing, doing, doing. In contrast, our bodies can be conditioned toward laziness. We can fall into patterns of inactivity or lethargy. Sleeping, moping around, never accomplishing much, doing what’s easy, never stretching, and never growing. Our bodies can be conditioned to crave certain substances, to feel certain emotions, or to yearn for a certain experience. And every part of our body including our feet, our eyes, our ears, and our tongue, can be conditioned toward sin or toward righteousness. A few weeks ago we talked how the tongue can spout evil almost without thought. This happens because the tongue is conditioned to physically express certain words or phrases. These words and phrases come out almost by default. I remember that in high school I did a lot of cussing around my friends. But one day I was working alongside a teacher who I wanted to impress. Something happened and I smashed my finger and all of a sudden this ugly explicative fell from my mouth. The teacher just looked at me and from that point I made an effort to change! Because our bodies have been conditioned in patterns of sin, it can take quite some time for them to be reprogrammed in righteousness! One way we can recondition our bodies toward righteousness is to use our physical bodies to glorify Christ. For example, if swearing is a problem, we can use our mouths to praise God and to speak his word. If we do not intentionally recondition our bodies in this way, we will not grow. In 1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV) Paul says, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Train your body in godliness. A last major obstacle is unsupportive relationships. Since we talked about this just last week, I will not say much more. But this is one of the greatest obstacles well-intentioned Christians never overcome. If we only surround ourselves with people who are antagonistic to our Christian faith, it is unlikely that we will experience significant growth. When I was in grade school I always went to church camp. Church camp was great. At camp I would hang out with kids who shared a common faith in Christ. All day long we would study scripture, sing about Christ, and become absorbed in wholesome activities. But then I would come back home from church camp and hang out with my old friends. We’d go around town getting in trouble. We’d make fun of each other. Soon, all the growth I had achieved at camp would erode. As Christians it is imperative that we surround ourselves with supportive relationships, and not just on Sunday morning. We need that daily encouragement, that daily reinforcement of knowing that we are not alone. We need that accountability for living the faith that we profess. When you survey these various obstacles, which one trips you up the most? Are you struggling with a perpetual, unconfessed sin? Are you being dragged away and enticed and drawn out of God’s presence? Are you struggling with one misplaced commitment after another? Are you struggling to give God a greater part of your heart each day? Are you wrestling with misinformation about God? Do you understand how he is working? Is he all truth and no grace? Is he all grace and no truth? Do you have an untrained physical body? Are there addictions? Are there patterns of sin that keep causing you to stumble? Are you being tripped by unsupportive relationships? Do your coworkers, peers, spouse, or others try to sway you from Jesus Christ? For every obstacle we have mentioned, God has provided a remedy. Any deficiency in our growth is not caused by God’s willingness or unwillingness. Our spiritual deficiencies are caused when we let these obstacles stand between us and God. When we let sin reign and avoid godly commitments and rest satisfied with misinformation about God and live in the flesh and surround ourselves with spiritually apathetic people, then we are putting roadblocks between us and God. As Rudy would say, "Change begins with a decision." Once you make a decision to grow spiritually, you have all the resources of heaven and this church at your disposal to support your spiritual growth. God offers you his word, his Holy Spirit, his Christian community, and his Son Jesus Christ. We offer this worship celebration, Adult Bible Fellowships, Deeper Life Groups, opportunities for Christian fellowship, sound biblical counsel, and teaching. We offer everything you need to grow. The ball is in your court. We have unlimited potential! The future is bright!