DREAM HOME SERMON SERIES
MOVING INTO YOUR ULTIMATE DWELLING PLACE – THE FINISH OUT
AUGUST 18, 1996
You have heard it or maybe you have even said it before. It is one of the most profound statements that can come from a human voice box. It is perplexing, intriguing and mystical. It is only four words long. God changed my life. God changed my life. If you are like me, when you hear someone utter that statement, you ask yourself this question. What does that mean? Is the person saying this doing all the changing or are they just sitting there and presto God changes them. Or maybe a combination of the two.
In this third session of our series entitled Dream Home, we are going to answer the question, how does God change a life. We are going to discover that God changes a life in much the same way we built and construct homes, through a process. This process is summarized and capsulized in a text found in the book of Philippians 2:12-13. This verse tells us in no uncertain terms how God changes a life. Before we read this text, I want you to remember this scripture section was penned directly to Christians, those in the family of faith, the already convinced. If you are not a believer, you are welcome here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas. Continue to investigate Christianity. It is paramount for you to really pay attention because you will understand and grasp what happens once you make a faith decision and how this process would play out in your life. Christianity is an event followed by a process. This process is discussed as we read the cited verses. “…Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purpose.” Circle the phrases “work out” and “work in”. It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. God did not disguise His change process. God said He was going to show us His hand and tell us how He changes a life. This text gives us our part and God’s part in change. Our part is to work out. In the original language, this phrase means to work to full completion, to develop what you already have. In other words, we are to work out what God in His grace has worked in.
For example, how many of you work out, exercise? Lift your hands, all the exercisers. Now there is a young man who I think I recognize and know. Tell me your name, sir. John Wright. Now, John, you work out. Correct? Why do you work out, John? Because you are over thirty. I can identify with that. John, what kind of workout do you do. You use the stairmaster and the Nautilus. OK. Stand up, John. Now John is a human being because we see John. See John stand. Hair, glasses, nicely dressed, etc. Single, too. Right? OK. Now, stay with me here. John does not work out to get a body. He has got a body. He works out to develop the body he already has. Don’t let work out your salvation confuse you. It doesn’t not say, work toward your salvation, work at your salvation. It is not talking about some self-help salvation, it is saying, develop what you already have. Christians, once we have made the faith decision, then we are to work out our salvation. Thank you, John.
We will come back to John a little later. Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Does that mean to fear and tremble before God? Is He a killjoy in the sky waiting to just slap you? No, that is not what this text means. This text means that we are to develop and work out our salvation knowing that we will meet God face to face one day and He will do a heavenly audit on our lives. He will look at how we worked out our salvation. We should reverence Him and love Him and want to take advantage of every opportunity that is available for change. So work it out with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Works in is God’s part. This phrase in the original language is pronounced “energia”. Say it with me. One, two, three, energia. That is Koine Greek and we get the word energy from energia.
The number one question that people ask me goes like this. They say, “Ed…”, because that’s my name and please call me Ed, not Reverend, Pastor, Doctor, whatever. Just call me Ed, like Mister Ed the horse. Anyway, they say, “Ed, I don’t feel like I have the power to change.” If you are in Christ, that is a bold faced lie. You do have the power to change, because you have God in you, and He gives you the energia, the energy, the power, to change. So God works in to will and to act according to His good purpose.
Now, let’s get specific. Look at this construction process. Right up front, let’s see how God changes and rearranges your life and mine. God says this is how He does it. First, God uses His blueprint to change believers. That is the first blank if you are using your bulletin insert. And the blueprint is the word of God, the Bible, the Holy Scripture. I like what Jeremiah 29:11 says, God speaking. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God is an architect. God did not design some tract home when He designed your life and mine. We are talking about a customized dream home. Here is my problem. And I think it is a problem that you might have too. But see if you can relate. I want to take my little plans, I want to get my pens and my rulers out and draw my own plans. Even though God says, “Ed, I’ve got plans to prosper you. Great plans, wonderful plans, abundant plans.” I will kind of look over at God’s plan and the difficulty is that I try to live off of two sets of plans. If you do that, the result is chaos. If you are a home builder and the client gives you two sets of plans and smiles and says, “Go for it”, the house is going to be ugly. Instead of the entry way, you may have a bathroom. Instead of the master bedroom, you might have a laundry shoot. It would be horrible, terrible. And we white knuckle our plans, don’t we? We roll them up and say, “These are my plans, God, for my marriage.” “God, this is the way I should go in my dating life.” “God, this is how I should purchase and use my money.” “God, this is what I have to do.” And we say, “These are my plans, these are my plans, these are my plans.” And God says, “Unroll your plans on my table. I’ll show you what I am going to do.”
A couple of nights ago I was with a close friend of mine and he unrolled a set of plans on his kitchen table and showed me a house he was considering purchasing. He looked and me and asked if I could read blueprints and house plans? I said I could. He pointed out different features and began to show me various things. “You know I can take this wall out. Can put a stone fireplace here. I can change the front entrance.” As I watched him go through this house, I was amazed because this man had vision. He could see things that I couldn’t see. That is what God wants to do. God wants you and me to unroll our plans, release our fists. He will knock out a wall here, place some carpeting there, place some stone there. God’s blueprint for your life and mine is right here in the Bible.
God said for us to meditate on His blueprint, read His blueprint, memorize His blueprint. II Timothy 3:16 talks about God’s blueprint. “The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration….” In the original, inspiration means God-breathed. I am going to tell you something. God does not have coffee breath. His breath is perfect. He breath is pure. “The whole Bible was written to give us inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true…” That is God’s blueprint. He shows us what is true, yet we like to change and rearrange and manipulate God’s plan don’t we? Kind of like my son, EJ, did a couple of days ago. EJ is four and we have twin daughters who are two. Lisa gave all three of them fruit rollups. And the twins began taking little bites. EJ has a large bass-sized mouth like I do and his fruit rollup was instantly gone. Then EJ turned to Laurie and Landra and said in a very authoritative way, “Laurie, Landra, God said to share your fruit rollups.” Now don’t bother looking at your concordance for fruit rollups because you will not find them in the Bible.
We do the same kind of thing. We want to change, to alter and fit God’s blueprint into our agenda, for our theology, for our lifestyle. We don’t want the blueprint to make us feel uncomfortable. “The whole Bible…is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives…” I will never forget. We had a couch my parents had given us which meant a lot to me. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a decorator. She said, “You know, Ed and Lisa, I am going to do your couch in this color.” She brought us a swatch of fabric about the size of a business card. I rather thought that it was ugly. Nonetheless, I told her to go ahead. After she recovered the couch in the fabric, I loved it. It was beautiful. The couch took on a whole new meaning for me. How many times in my life has God said, “Ed, as the master builder, as the master architect, as the master designer, here is a swatch. I am going to show you what I am going to do. Here is a swatch of what I am going to do in this relationship. Here is a swatch of what I am going to do in your life.” And I say, “Oh, God, no, no, no. I can’t do that. No way. That doesn’t look good.” But, if I trust Him on the swatch, I step back and go, “Whoa, incredible, phenomenal.” God changes us through His blueprint, the Bible.
God also changes us through the contractor, the Holy Spirit of God. The moment we open up the door of our lives to invite Jesus Christ in, He puts the person of the Holy Spirit into our lives. The Holy Spirit becomes the quintessential contractor in our lives, who builds and constructs from the inside out stuff to do the will of God. The contractor motivates. The contractor inspires. The contractor coordinates. The Holy Spirit of God is simply God Himself. Romans 8:11, Phillips translation. “Once the Spirit…lives within you, He will bring to your whole being…new strength and vitality.” You might want to circle the words strength and vitality. Acts 1:8 says, “We will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon us.”
Now this will date me a little bit but one of my favorite shows growing up was Good Times. My favorite actor was Jimmy J.J. Walker. He would say, “dy no mite”. I used to love it. Acts 1:8. The word power in the Greek is pronounced dounamis. We get the word dynamite from dounamis. Once the Holy Spirit, this contractor, come into our lives, we have dynamite in our lives to change and to equip and to do the things the Lord wants us to do. You see the Holy Spirit is a contractor who kind of nudges us. It is that internal voice that subcontracts crews to hammer on our conscience when we are about to stretch the truth. The Holy Spirit subcontracts crews to sand away the rough edges of our character. The Holy Spirit subcontracts crews to peel away the pride in your life and mine when we think we are too big, too bad, too educated, too smart and too good looking to do it God’s way.
God uses His blueprint, the Bible and He uses the Holy Spirit to change us. I have got to stop right here and say that this is God’s ideal way to change your life and mine. John, stand up again. John Wright. Let’s say, for example, John Wright is struggling with pride. Let’s say John says, “OK, I’m struggling with pride. I know what I will do. I will read the blueprint.” And John reads the blueprint and it says, “Pride comes before a fall.” That is the first way God wants to change John. “All right”, John says. Now because John is a believer, he has the Holy Spirit in his life and the Holy Spirit will empower him to be a man of humility. The Holy Spirit will say, “Hey, John, instead of talking about yourself, hey, John, instead of promoting yourself, show some humility.” But, you see, John is a human being, like you and like me. For the most part we don’t just change just through God’s word and through the Holy Spirit. God uses something else. God uses in the construction process, circumstances to change a person’s life. So when John begins to act prideful, God says, “John, now wait a minute. I have given it to you in My Word and the Holy Spirit in you gives you the power to change. But you are still not changing.” Then God will take the rug out from under him and John will fall flat on his face. If that doesn’t work, he will get lower and lower and lower until he turns and says, “OK, God.” Thank you, John.
Talk about a tough verse. Proverbs 20:30 says, “Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.” Sometimes we don’t change until we get desperate, do we? A painful situation. God says, “I will allow painful situations to come into your life. I will allow good situations to come into your life and I will use them to fit into a pattern, into a floor plan, if you will, for good.” You see, construction is intrusive, it is noisy, it is messy, it is ugly. Oftentimes the circumstances that God allows His children to go through are messy and ugly and intrusive. Circumstances, the Holy Spirit of God and the Bible.
Do you know what God’s over-riding principle is in your life and my life. The number one thing on His agenda is to make us like Jesus. That is it. To make us like Jesus. So if that is God’s number one priority, then that means that He will allow us to go through things like His Son went through. Question. Did Jesus ever suffer? Question. Was Jesus ever tempted? Question. Was Jesus ever betrayed? Question. Was Jesus ever mocked? Our loving and transcendent God says, “You matter so much to me that I am going to take it upon Myself to give you My Bible, My Spirit and circumstances to build something beautiful out of your life. That is My part. I am not going to strong-arm you, I am not going to force you, I am not going to manipulate you. Now it is up to you.
And this is our part. Our part relates directly to God’s part. What should my part be in this construction process, in this finish out process? The Bible tells us in Psalm 77:12, “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Circle the word meditate. It means to think deeply and quietly. It does not mean sitting in the lotus position humming a mantra. It is meditating and memorizing God’s blueprint. Oh, a door here, a wall here, carpet there, a change there, a character situation there. This happens through the music we listen to, whether it is Christian Bach, rock, alternative, rap, you name it. Meditate on it. So as I meditate, I have got to meditate on His works and consider all of His mighty deeds. You see the way we think determines the way we feel. The way we feel determines the way we act. So if I can change the way I think, it will change the way I feel and it will change the way I act. You see, you are not what you think you are but what you think, you are.
The Book of Proverbs says that we are shaped by our thoughts. If you don’t believe me, John stand up one more time. What if we took John and said that we really wanted to know him. What if we had some kind of machine that could project on the screen all of John’s thoughts for the last seven days. We would know John, wouldn’t we? Whoa, John. We would know him. We are shaped by our thoughts. Thank you very much, John.
How do I change the way that I think? By meditating and knowing God’s Word. If you are not spending time studying and memorizing and meditating on God’s blueprint, you will never change. I don’t care how much money you give, how good looking you are, how sweet your children happen to be, who your father and mother are, it is not going to happen. It is your choice. It is my choice. God, as we talked about last week, is waiting to meet with you and me. Not only does it mean something to you, it means a world to Him. We were bought and redeemed with a price. We have an entire class that we teach once a month on how to study and spend time in God’s Word. It is called Starting Point and it will help you in this realm.
Our next response is this. Submit. Job 22:21 says, “Submit to God and be at peace with Him…” We are talking about submitting ourselves to the contractor, the Holy Spirit of God. I have heard people say, “I have submitted myself to the Holy Spirit of God.” Again I wonder, because I am very inquisitive, what does that mean. Here is how you know if you have submitted yourself to God. You check your prayers. And that is why I encourage you to write out a lot of your prayers, because you can go back and say that whatever it is you are praying about is where you are depending on God. Both good circumstances and bad circumstances. Hmmm. “I must be submitting in this area and not in that area. Yes, I am submitting my finances but not my relationships. I am giving Him my vocation but not my recreation.” Submit yourself to the Holy Spirit of God. That is why we spend an entire sermon last week talking about a tour of a dream home. Please pick up last week’s tape because I challenge you to regularly take the Holy Spirit of God on a tour of your life, of your dream home. I challenge you to show Him every square foot and not to keep some closet under lock and key. I challenge you to transfer the title of your life to God. Meditate. Submit.
Another response is found in James 1:2-4. “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends!…” That is the third response to this construction process. Welcome the construction process. Welcome the circumstances. I love to go to the State Fair of Texas, don’t you? The highlight is seeing Big Tex; sixty feet tall in a pair of Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, western shirt. Here is what Bib Tex does. “Howdy, folks. I’m Big Tex. Welcome to the State Fair of Texas.” God says that when circumstances come your way such as death, depression, arguing, backbiting, we are to say “Howdy, circumstance, welcome to my life.” That is what we are to say. Now it is not easy to welcome these intruders but we are to welcome them because we have to know that God is doing a great work in our lives. It goes on to say, “…Realize they come to test your faith and to produce the quality of endurance. Let the process go on until endurance is fully developed, and you have become men of mature character, men of integrity…” I have got to stop here.
You know what God does with me and I bet He does it with you also. He is into the character building business. I have a problem with impatience. I really do. And I can tell I have this problem and I pray about it and I would think that God would put me around all these patient people. I would think that my being around patient people would help me to become a patient person. He knows me so well though. He says, “No, no, Ed, I’ll put you in impatient situations. I’ll put you in situations like standing in a line at Tom Thumb with some diapers and carrot juice with thirteen people in front of you, all writing checks. I am going to put you in impatient situations, to build your patience. I am going to put you in heavy traffic, to teach you patience. That is what God does. That is how He builds. Remember the construction process is intrusive, ugly, but it is worth it. He wants to build men and women of “…integrity with no weak spots.”
So that’s it, God’s part and my part. God’s deal and my deal. But there is something else that occurs once you do the finish out. The final inspection. Someone comes over to your house who is very detailed and they check out everything. Testing, one, two, three. And then, if it passes, they green tag it and you can live there. The Bible talks over and over about one day that Christians will face a holy God. The Lord, Himself, will do a final inspection on your life and mine. Yes, if we are in Christ, we are going to heaven. No doubt about it. Signed, sealed and delivered. But, there will be greater rewards for those who have worked out their salvation and cooperated with God’s construction process. The rewards will be on certain levels. God will inspect my life and say, “Ed, I have given you this gift or that gift. How did you develop them? How did it go?” “John, I gave you this gift and that gift. How did you develop them, John? Did you really do the kind of job I wanted you to do? Did you really go after it, John.”
I am going to tell you something. You can talk about a dream home, you can talk about finish out, you can talk about final inspection but in the real sense of the word, our house and home is our heart. It is our life. Jesus wants you and He wants me to cooperate with His finish out. Let’s do it. All right?