Running Uphill

September 9th, 2018

David Sorn



Most of the time it’s easier to do the wrong thing, not the right thing. Doing the right thing is like running uphill. So why would we ever run uphill? Listen and find out!



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TRANSCRIPT


INTRODUCTION / ABDICATE

(Abdicate series slide)

Morning.  My name is David, I’m the Lead Pastor here.  

Are you familiar with this word abdicate? 

To abdicate…is to renounce or relinquish the throne. 

In history, this is when a king or a queen decides…they are not really the right person to be governing the country anymore (due to their age…or their lack of leadership ability)…

and so they “ABDICATE,” and step of the throne to let the next in line, one more worthy than them, govern. 

It actually hasn’t happened all that many times in history, because, well, humans have a hard time letting go of power and control. 

The Lord has really been laying on my heart how much we struggle with this.

And so I want to take three weeks and talk about this concept. 

And I want to start with the topic of how we need to abdicate to the authority of God’s Word…

So, as Christians, what do we believe about God’s Word?  The Bible? 

Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God.  That it is inerrant (without error) and that it has supreme authority in how we are to live our lives. 

This comes not only from the Word itself: 

(2 Timothy 3:16) – NIV

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

But we also believe the Bible is the fully-true, fully authoritative word of God:

Because of what it’s accomplished in history

Because of how it’s been proven by archaeology

Because of the prophecies fulfilled

And about 100 other reasons. 

If you have questions on this, I encourage you to go online and check our Eyewitness message from Easter on this…or our Reason To Believe series from 2014

Believing that the Bible is God’s Authoritative Word on how we should live our lives is a CORNERSTONE doctrine of Christianity.  

And YET…YET…

… I continue to see more and more Christians who do not live under the authority of God’s Word. 

The crown rests firmly on their own head when it comes to making decisions…particularly difficult ones. 

And I’m not talking about people who mess up and sin. 

That’s all of us. 

There’s a big difference between a Christian who sins…and says, like Paul did in Romans 7, “I keep doing what I hate doing…ugh…Lord forgive me.”  

And a Christian who says, “Yeah, I know the Bible says we’re supposed to live that way, “But…I’m just not going to” 

I continue to see more and more of that latter attitude out of modern-day believers…and I want to speak to that topic today. 

And I want to do so through the book of Jonah in the Old Testament.  

(Page 753) 

(Renovation App) 

Jonah was a prophet of Israel who lived about 800 years before Jesus

(Jonah 1:1-3) – NIV

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Okay, so let’s put this together on a map…shall we?? 

(SHOW JONAH MAP) 

Jonah is from Israel, which is about here…

The Word of the Lord (God’s WORD) tells him to go preach to the people of Nineveh…which is here…near to where modern-day Mosul is (in Iraq)…but he heads to Tarshish, which is over here in Spain.  

In fact, the city of Tarshish to most of the Israelites of that time was the farthest city away from them that they were aware of. 

In a sense, Jonah was fleeing to the ends of the earth in his mind. 

He wants nothing to do with God’s Word…which has commanded him to speak to the Ninevites.  

And by the way, it wasn’t like God was asking him to go and preach to Wisconsinites …or something.  

Who clearly need Jesus…but there’s no comparison here. 

The people of Nineveh were known as the most evil people on the planet at that time…

When they conquered cities…they would literally skin people alive before they killed them. 

This would be like God asking you to go preach to ISIS…not the citizens of Wisconsin Dells. 

 

 

WHY WE CHOOSE TO KEEP THE CROWN

And so Jonah, decides not to abdicate the throne. 

He will keep wearing the crown and making decisions for his own life. 

And you and I do the same thing…every day. 

Even as Christians. 

We know what God’s Word says…but we don’t do it. 

Because it feels easier to disobey…and a lot of times, we just think we know better. 

Imagine yourself sitting on the throne…and wearing a crown

And you read in the Word…that God wants to lead your life…and He tells you to: Forgive those who’ve sinned against you. 

And you think of your brother…your former friend. 

And you say, “nope”…too hard.  They don’t deserve it. 

You don’t abdicate.  

You decide your way is better

The next week you read in the Word… “Don’t be sexually immoral.  Save sex for marriage.”

And you say, “Nope. Too difficult.  Too old school.  I know better. 

You don’t abdicate. 

That’s what we’re talking about. 

And this sort of thinking is becoming an epidemic for Christians…and it will destroy us. 

It feels so much easier…and so much more appealing to disobey. 

What would you rather do? 

Go to the South of Spain or go preach to the people who skin people alive?  

It’s almost always easier to keep the crown on your head.  Jesus himself tells us that it is easier!

 (Matthew 7:13-14) – NIV

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Let me tell you something: Just because something appears easy to you…or even providential…doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Jonah is dreaming about how easy it would be in the South of Spain…and while he’s at Joppa…guess what he happens to find there!

A ship headed to that exact place!

Listen, our enemy, the evil one…is more than happy to provide us with a ship going to the same place  that our sinful hearts have been dreaming of

Sometimes I hear people talk like this: They’ll say, “I was miserable in my marriage…but while I was in despair…this other person came along…and they were perfect for me!  I know God just wants me to be happy” 

No, actually, God wants you to obey His Word

If your heart is inclined toward keeping the crown on your head, it will never be difficult for you to find a ship ready to set sail for Spain…  

But “how easy something is”… NEVER should override what God has already told you in His Word

Sometimes we say:  “I don’t need to obey, because I know better.” 

In chapter 4, Jonah says that he initially didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knows that God is going to forgive them…and he doesn’t want God to forgive them!  They’re EVIL!

Jonah thinks he knows better than God what needs to be done.

This is our culture right now. Welcome to America…2018. 

We think we have graduated from God. 

That we know better than He does when it comes to sex or money or how to treat people.  

And the idea that we have “Graduated from God” is going to drive our society right into the ground. 

There’s no such thing as improving on God’s ways. 

                                  

 

THE CONSEQUENCES OF WEARING THE CROWN

And so know this…if you’re not abdicating to the authority of God’s Word…there will be consequences. 

This is the kind of stuff that is all over the Bible, but nobody talks about anymore. 

Let’s keep reading as Jonah is onboard the ship now. 

(Jonah 1:4-17) – NIV

4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 

The sailors eventually figure out that the storm is Jonah’s fault, and Jonah tells them that if they throw him overboard the storm will become calm. 

Then this happens:  

(Jonah 1:15-17)

15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

By the way, it says, he was in the belly of a huge FISH…not a whale. 

Sometimes people have a hard time believing that, but I always say, “If God could create the universe with his words…

…like entire PLANETS with a word (Saturn, Neptune, Pluto)…it wouldn’t be too difficult for him to create a fish that would allow Jonah to survive for 3 days. 

And so Jonah disobeys the Word of God…and his life starts to descend downward.

One of the things that commentators usually point out about this passage is that as Jonah continues to run from God…he keeps going down. 

He goes down to Joppa…down below the ship…down to sleep…down in the sea…and down into the fish. 

The crown is heavy…and keeping it on your head will always bring you DOWN. 

And it doesn’t just bring Jonah down…but it affects the others on the ship with him.  They’re in the storm too!

When I don’t obey God’s Word, it doesn’t just affect me. 

It affects my wife…my kids…my staff…you. 

I’m not on an island here. 

 

 

DISCIPLINE AS GRACE

And so because of Jonah’s disobedience and rebellion, God brings a storm into his life

And some would curse God for that. 

We say, “And see, that’s exactly why I’m running from you!  That’s why I’m not living for you anymore!  Because this is what I get!! 

But the thing about God…is that he often disciplines us with storms of grace. 

If the storm doesn’t come, Jonah keeps on running. 

If the storm doesn’t come, Jonah never turns back to God. 

Even being swallowed up by something in your life…can be an act of grace…of God’s favor. 

For it’s only when Jonah is sitting in the belly of the great fish, that he’s finally able to abdicate to the authority of God’s Word (to go to Nineveh)

Look at part of his prayer from inside the fish

(Jonah 2:7) – NIV

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

So know this…if you run from him…he’s probably going to send a storm after you to get you…because He loves you…and wants you back! 

He’s crazy about you…He sent his own son to die for you…that’s how much he loves you. 

And he’s been trying to woo you back with his love, but if you keep running, He’s going to send a storm of grace…

Which is a divine opportunity for you to turn back. 

Maybe you’re even there in that storm right now…

Today is a chance for you to say, “I’m coming home.  I’m ready to take this crown off…to abdicate…to become a person of the WORD…to trust that YOU can run my life better than I can” 

 

 

RUNNING UPHILL

But to abdicate…you have to be willing to follow His Word…even if it’s hard or doesn’t make sense. 

You have to be willing to follow Him even if it means running uphill

The truth is…it’s a downhill run towards sin and disobedience. 

It’s easy.  

Here’s a choice you’re going to face very day: 

Do you want to run downhill towards destruction or uphill towards his blessing? 

Because there’s blessing in obedience. 

In chapter 3, Jonah is spit out of the fish and this happens: 

(Jonah 3:3-5) – NIV

3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

(Put previous quote back up)  

We’re told that even the KING of Ninevah repents, and the whole city turned to God…and so God relents and has mercy on them. 

When you follow Scripture…you follow God’s Word…his blessing will come. 

Even if it feels like an uphill climb.  

We need to be people of the WORD. 

If God’s Word says, “Be generous with your finances” like it does in 1 Timothy and 2 Corinthians and others…then be generous. 

Don’t say, “But it’s easier and more convenient not to” 

That’s you with the crown on your head

Of course it’s easier to go to the South of Spain…but that doesn’t mean the blessing is there.  

And we can’t say, “But it would be SOO difficult, given my current financial situation to still be generous.” 

Would it be more difficult than preaching to a group that was worse than ISIS? 

God doesn’t offer Jonah a free pass on obedience simply because it would have been difficult…and he’s not offering us one either. 

Maybe because He knows that it’s in the difficulty that we’ll give him the credit: 

But too many Christians believe that God doesn’t want them to do something if it would be hard for them

We have to stop rationalizing disobedience.

Most of the time God going to ask you to run uphill, not down. 

If you do nothing, you’ll just slide down. 

That’s why the old folks used to call it backsliding. 

RUN by friend.  RUN uphill!

This is why abdicating to the authority of God’s Word is such a powerful thing for your life:  

It’s because the blessing is at the top of the hill. 

There was no blessing for Jonah in Spain. 

He wasn’t going to see God move there.  

But Jonah got to see miracles in Nineveh because he obeyed even when it meant running uphill

A number of years ago, I saw an old friend of mine...and for whatever reason, I felt like I was sarcastic, mean, and just unkind…as I spoke with him.. (ever have a day like that?) 

And over the last few years, I haven’t seen that guy since, but I’ve thought of that interaction…oh, I’d say, once a week. 

You know how this goes… 

And I often think, “I need to reach out, ask him to meet, and ask for forgiveness” 

But that’s running uphill stuff. 

Way easier to keep drifting out to sea…sliding back down the hill. . 

So finally, after about 3 years of keeping the crown on my head…I was thinking, “I know God’s Word says I’m supposed to apologize…confess my sin to those I’ve wronged.”  

I just need to trust God, and run uphill…even if I don’t want to

And so I reached out to him, we met, and I said, “I’m really for sorry for how I acted that day.” 

And he said, “Honestly I don’t even remember you being mean that day, and I haven’t thought about it since…but I forgive you” 

And now we’ve been able to talk again, and it’s been great. 

Because the blessing is at the top of the hill. 

So when I stand up here and I speak strongly to you by saying:  “If God’s Word says “Do x, y, and Z, then DO x, y, and z,”…

I’m not just saying that because He’s God and so you need to obey (although that’s part of it), 

I’m saying it because it’s GOOD! 

The blessing’s at the top of the hill!

Now, if you read chapter 4, you’ll see, Jonah again, gets grumpy about what God’s doing. 

Which means, that abdicating is a lifelong deal. 

Too many of us hand over the crown, and then days later we sneak up and snatch it back.  

But one of the things that God has really shown me in 2018 is that there is an unbelievable correlation between spiritual maturity and those who put themselves under the authority of God’s Word. 

I’m talking about people who say, “If the bible teaches that…I’ll do it…no matter how hard it is. I trust God”  

Because why run downhill to destruction when you can run uphill to his blessing?  

The people we appoint to be leaders in our church, or elders of our House Groups, may not always the most dynamic people in the room…or score the highest on an IQ test… 

But they are absolutely people who live under the authority of God’s Word.  

They’ve abdicated to his Word and they do what it says. 

You CAN NOT grow to be spiritually mature if you keep only obeying God’s Word when it’s convenient for you. 

This reminds me of one of my favorite DL Moody Quotes…and there are many of them: 

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is fully consecrated to Him.” – D. L. Moody  

And I believe that quote for our church. 

The world has yet to see what God can do with a church that is fully surrendered to Him. 

Too many churches…at times even this one, are filled with people who only want to obey God when it’s convenient for them…when it feels like downhill effort…when they fully agree with and understand 100% of it.  

Do you think Abraham fully understood when God asked him, “To walk up the hill and sacrifice his son Isaac?” 

When he was walking up that hill, do you think he said, “I’ll do it because that sounds like what is best to me…and what is easiest for me.” 

No, He said, “I’ll do it because you’re God” 

And God had a plan, and Isaac was fine, and they were blessed because he walked UPHILL in obedience. 

I’m telling you, “God will do something special with this church…when we fully surrender…when we abdicate to be people of the Word.  

Then God will use us…even in the next coming weeks…

One of Jesus’ last commands to us on earth was to make disciples of all nations…starting in your hometown and going out.   

And you’ve got an incredible opportunity to do that…

To help serve outside on FFD so people can meet Jesus inside. 

To invite your neighbors, your co-workers, your family members to come hear about Jesus. 

Such an amazing opportunity!

We’re going to see HUNDREDS of visitors because so many of you will trust God in this!

But if you just say, “Nah, that’s not convenient for me to serve that day…and, it’s uncomfortable for me to ask a friend…then yeah, eventually, overtime, we’ll be another lukewarm church with nothing really to show for it”  

You don’t see miracles when you shift to neutral and slide downhill

But if we’re people of the Word who run uphill…

Trusting that the blessing is in obedience…

That we can see him work a miracle in our family member’s life…in our friends’ life…

Then we’re going to see people you know push their chair back, with tears streaming down their face, and stand up, and give their lives to Christ 14 days from now!

But only…but ONLY…if we do what is NOT easy…and only if we do not what we want to do, but what HE wants us to do! 

If we can live like that…if we can get off the throne and let him control our lives…

Then  going to do something special through us…through Renovation Church. 

He’s going to change the world. 

Let me pray.


Copyright: David Sorn

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN




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