Step Up To The Plate Improving Your Swing Part 1

Sermon Summary - This message is the first of a two part sermon within the series Step Up To The Plate. Using a passage of Scripture found in Philippians 3, we will look at various techniques for improving our swing when it comes to living and serving God. This first message examines five such techniques. They are: Attitude, being Teachable, using Discernment with who you listen to, walking in The Spirit, and swinging for the Glory of God. Additional techniques will be revealed in next weeks message.   

Community Group Discussion Guide 
1. We began the sermon by looking at an illustration from baseball. It talked about the seemingly impossibility of hitting a 95 mph baseball. Does living for God consistently sometimes seem like an impossibility to you? Why?

2. Why is attitude so important when a person steps up to bat either in baseball or in living for God? Paul encouraged his readers to live life rejoicing. Read the following passage from the Psalmist and discuss how a rejoicing attitude might help you as you seek to live for God.

Psalm 105:1-4 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

3. Remaining teachable is one of the most important aspects to consistently improving your swing. We must be willing to learn from good coaches and teachers. What are some of the things that happen when a person begins to think they know everything when it comes to serving God?

Proverbs 16:16-20 How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

4. Knowing that God is with us when we step up to the plate is possible because we have the precious Holy Spirit of God living within us. Pastor Larry said that being filled with The Holy Spirit is not us getting more of the Spirit, but the Spirit getting more of us. What did he mean by this and how does the word surrender factor in this discussion? 

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

5. Bonus Question: How does our motive affect our swing?

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritancefrom the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Full Sermon Notes

Step Up To The Plate
Improving Your Swing
Part 1

"Through it all, through it all my eyes are on You!" That's the secret! In baseball a batter is told over and over: "Keep your eyes on the ball!" In our spiritual lives we are to keep our eyes on Jesus. There are specific things we need to understand and do if we're going to keep our eyes on Jesus and get a hit when we step up to the plate! Let's pray and ask God to teach us how to improve our swing!

"Father God, I'm so thankful for the awesome privilege of being on Your team. I still question why You would pick me, but I know You see things we can't see and You know things we don't know. You take our willingness and couple it with Your wisdom, strength and power and help us win in the game of life! We desire to step up to the plate and serve You by making a difference in this old world! And speaking of this old world, it can sure throw us some curve balls, fast balls, and knuckle balls! We need to know how to improve our swing so we can at least get to first base. Teach us today by way of Your Holy Spirit and hide me behind the cross so people can see You! It's in the sweet name of Jesus I pray and believe!"

Okay, in the last two weeks we've talked about stepping up to the plate even when you've struck out. We can do that because of the mercy and forgiveness of God through Christ. He doesn't kick us off the team when we've messed up! We also learned last week that we can step up to the plate when we don't think we can! When we feel we're not good enough or talented enough, we must remember living for and serving God doesn't depend on our righteousness or giftedness! It is our willingness to admit our weakness and our inability and then trust God to make up the difference. But here's a very important truth we need not forget: Just because we're not good enough or talented enough, just because we must depend on God's mercy and power, this does not mean God doesn't want us to improve and get better. We come to Jesus just like we are and He accepts us, but He then begins the life-long process of helping us to become what He created us to be! We were originally made in the image of God but sin marred that image in us and so God sent His Son Jesus to restore us! Our goal now is to become more like Jesus! Jesus showed us what being in the image of God looks like! So with that in mind, I want us to look at how we can improve our swing when we step up to the plate to live for God! Now I know some people think that living for God constantly is an impossible thing. The disciples once asked Jesus how anyone could even be saved?

Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Sometimes things seem impossible, but they are not! I'm going to give you an example. Do you know how many milliseconds are in a second? 1,000! How many of you think that in less than half a second, 400 milliseconds a person can look at something, think about it, make a decision on it, and then act on that decision? We've got a guy in our church who used to play some serious baseball on a collage team. Scott Galloway sent this to me from Business Insider, and it's fascinating.

Video Plays Here

Isn't that amazing? It's just a wonder anyone can hit a ball at those speeds and with such a short time to react. But we know there are pros who have amazing batting averages and this proves it can be done! So what does this have to do with improving our swing when it comes to living for God? Well, first of all, while it may seem impossible, it isn't if we trust God to help us. Just as He designed the human brain, eyes, and body to do the seemingly impossible when stepping up to bat in major league baseball, He has designed a way for us to do the seemingly impossible in our spiritual lives! But here's the problem. Some people are prideful and think they don't need God's help so they go it alone and totally depend on their own credentials, qualities, power and goodness. This is where Paul the apostle was before he found Jesus. Then there are others who know they aren't good enough on their own, but rather than trust Jesus to help them get better they just say it doesn't matter what they do since they can't be good enough anyway. Thus they just continue to live in sin and never try to overcome it! Both of these attitudes are wrong and extremely harmful to the individual and to God's kingdom.

Dr. Frank Stagg put it this way...

"Religion is always threatened by these fallacies, resulting in either   the pride, superficiality, and irrelevance of legalism or the moral breakdown and ethical irresponsibility of the license which masquerades as liberty!"

Paul talked about these two extreme distortions in Christianity in his letter to the Philippian church. And it's in his discussion that we discover how we can improve our swing when we step up to the plate to do the seemingly impossible task of living for and serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Let's begin reading our text, some of which was in last weeks message, found in Philippians 3:1-21

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! ...

Let's stop right there…The very first way to improve your swing is right there...

Improve Your Swing With Your Attitude

Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! ...

What is your mental state when you step up to the plate? Are you rejoicing that God would ask you to be on His team? Are you thinking about the work Jesus did on the Cross on your behalf so you could step up to the plate?Are you trusting Him to empower your swing?
Are you excited about getting on base? Attitude affects your swing and how you run!
The Psalmist penned these words...

Psalm 105:1-4 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Stepping up to the plate with a grateful, rejoicing attitude will make such a difference in your spiritual batting average!
Paul then goes on to write these words to his team at Philippi...

Philippians 3:1...It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

Improve Your Swing By Being Teachable

Ok, obviously they had talked about some of these things before, but they are so important Paul says he doesn't mind repeating them and that it would be a safeguard for the people if they would listen and heed the warnings. Good coaches will drill certain things into your head! Over and over again until you get it right. Why? Because they've played the game and have lessons to teach. We've got to humble ourselves and be willing to take instruction. One of the greatest characteristics and traits a coach wants in a player is one who is teachable. You get a player who thinks he or she already knows everything and you've got a problem on your hand. They will not be a team player and you won't be able to coach them. If you want to improve your spiritual swing, stay teachable.

The writer of Proverbs said it beautifully...

Proverbs 4:5-13 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor. ”
Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.
I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.

Stay teachable! Seek God's wisdom and follow His instructions. But also remember that there are a lot of other voices out their and they are all competing for your attention. In fact, Paul was struggling with some false teachers who were trying to derail his message. Listen to what he says next in our text...

Philippians 3:2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.

Improve Your Swing By Not Listening To False Teachers

When Paul says watch out for the dogs, evil men and mutilators of the flesh, he was talking about a group of people who were insisting that salvation depended on human righteousness and came through the Old Testament ritual of circumcision. Paul wasn't saying that circumcision was wrong, but he was saying physical circumcision is not what saves a person. One of the appealing characteristics of a lot of religions is that enlightenment and or salvation are based on human effort and achievement. And talk about an open door for human pride to enter in. If we can earn it you can bet we will brag about what we've done! Again, self-righteousness and self-enlightenment can be very appealing, but it will leave you empty in the end. If you are your own God, what will you do when you face something bigger than you, or you have a question that is beyond your ability to figure out?

Jesus once told a parable about this in Luke 18:9-14

Luke 18:9-14 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—
robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven,
but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus taught the truth in such powerful ways. What a story. Paul was dealing with some of those kind of pharisaical people. So he takes a cue from Jesus and tells it like it is...

Philippians 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God,

Improve Your Swing By Walking In The Spirit

Physical circumcision had served as a way to set the Hebrews apart from other nations but they had missed the real desire of God. And what was that? God had told the Hebrews this back in Deuteronomy 10:16...

Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.

In other words, God wanted His people to open their hearts to His Holy Spirit! If you want to improve your swing when it comes to living life for God then you must allow God to fill you and lead you by His precious Holy Spirit. And remember, The Holy Spirit, He is The Spirit of God. He is not a substance or a force, He is the very presence of God with us.

Remember that Jesus was Emanuel, God with us, and when He left this earth He promised to send His Holy Spirit to be our comforter and our teacher! Paul put it this way in Eph. 1:17-21...

Ephesians 1:17-21 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Wow! That's amazing! Once again the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to us through God's Holy Spirit! His Spirit gives us the power to step up to the plate and swing with confidence! And how does He do this? We find the secret in these words found in Ephesians 5:18...

Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

So each and every day we need to ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. His Spirit of Wisdom! His Spirit of power! His Spirit of loving and caring for others! And remember this, when you asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to come into your heart, He did this by way of His Holy Spirit, so if you're a believer, The Holy Spirit resides within you. Being filled with The Holy Spirit is not you getting more of the Spirit, but allowing the Spirit to get more of you! It's allowing God's Holy Spirit to fill your your work life, your family life, your marriage life, your workout life, your hobby life, your financial life, your entertainment life, your thought life, every room and every corner of your life!

Okay, we're only going to have time for one more technique to improve your swing, but we'll cover the rest of them next week. They are all so important, so please don't miss next week! But the one we'll end with today is so important! Let's check it out...

Philippians 3:3-7 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God,
who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—
though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put
confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

Improve Your Swing By Swinging For
The Glory of God

When you're swinging for the glory of God it's no longer about swinging for the fence. If God tells you to swing for the fence, then go for it! He'll help you get it over the fence. But what if He tells you to bunt to bring in a run? What if He tells you to sacrifice yourself by getting out so another person can get to home plate? Now this is were it gets tough sometimes. I mean we're talking about swallowing your pride and doing something for the team and for our coach, the head of the church, Jesus Christ! Paul was done with grandstanding for his own glory. He saw the horrible path that took him down. In his legalistic self-righteousness he had turned into a murderous persecutor of those who didn't see things his way!

You might be tempted to say, "but I would never get to that point!" Let me say this as gently, but with as much conviction as I can: If you are honest about your past, you know there have been decisions you've made that put yourself, your desires, your selfish wants above and ahead of what was good for a team, a co-worker, or even a family member, like your spouse or your child! And certainly we've all had times when we've put our desires above what God wanted for us and when we've done that, our spiritual batting average took a hit! But did you hear what Paul said?

Philippians 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

He said, "I now glory in Christ and put no confidence in the flesh!"
When we decide to live our lives for the glory of God and when we decide to serve God for His glory, the meaning and purpose that infuses into our life is beyond description! The excitement and feelings of accomplishment God will bring to us as we literally become world changers will be amazing. And seeing the smile on God's face as we bring glory to Him, well, that's priceless!
Let me close our batting practice this morning with these words...

Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been
reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 Let's pray!