Step Up To The Plate Improving Your Swing Part 2

Sermon Summary - This message continues the discussion of various techniques we can use to improve our swing when we step of to the plate to serve God. These come from Paul's letter to the Philippian Church in the New Testament. Things like keeping our eyes on Jesus, letting Jesus empower our swing, showing up for practice, and by doing the things we've already been taught! There will be a third installment on this subject.

Community Group Discussion Guide 

1. Stepping up to the plate can be an intimidating thing. Why is this true in baseball as well as with serving God?

2. One of the most important techniques to remember when stepping up to the plate in baseball is to keep your eyes on the ball. When stepping up to the plate to serve the Lord, it is vital that we keep our eyes on Jesus. Discuss what happens when we keep our eyes on Jesus and when we take our eyes off Jesus. 

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3. What are some of the ways we can let Jesus empower our swing? Some great clues are found in Paul's description of the Full Armor of God. See how many ways Jesus can empower our swing in the following passage. Hints: truth/sword of the Spirit, etc

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. NIV

4. We need to show up to practice and then practice what we've been taught! We don't do this in order to be saved, but because we've been saved. We must remember we were not only saved from something, but to something. What are some of the things God has saved us to?

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Full Sermon Notes

(Includes some of the notes for next weeks message)

Step Up To The Plate
Improving Your Swing Part 2

Ok, in the last several 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 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 that living for 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 all 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!  So last week we talked about improving our swing when we step up to the plate! Our text for this discussion is found in Philippians 3. Paul talked about two extreme distortions in Christianity in his letter to the Philippian church. Some thought it was by human effort and righteousness that a person is made right with God. Others thought since they couldn't be good enough, then it didn't matter how they lived their lives and they quit trying to live righteous lives and just embraced a life of sin.

Paul confronted these two false doctrines 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! Last week we covered five techniques for improving our spiritual swing. Let's review them quickly. If you missed it catch the details at Northrshorechurch.net

Ok, the review…Paul said in Philippians 3:1...

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

Improve Your Swing With Your Attitude

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? Attitude affects your swing and how you run!
Paul went on to say...

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

Stay teachable! Never think you know it all, you don't, none of us do. Seek God's wisdom and follow His instructions.
Paul then said...

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

Improve Your Swing By Not Listening False Teachers

There are false teachers out there and they're going to do their best to lead you astray. Be careful who you listen to.
Paul then said...

Philippians 3:3a 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 the Old Testament, God wanted a relationship with His people! He wanted them to open their hearts to Him and commit their lives to Him! In the New Testament, God takes things to a whole new level when He gives His Holy Spirit to all who would receive Jesus as their Savior. Paul then states this...

Philippians 3:3 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—

Improve Your Swing By Swinging For
The Glory of God

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.  

Okay, now your caught up if you missed last week. Now let's see what other techniques for improving our swing we can discover from what Paul said. Paul says he put no confidence in his own righteousness, but he could have been tempted to do so. Let's continue reading in verse 4 and following…

Philippians 3:4 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. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Improve Your Swing By Keeping Your Eye On The Ball

Paul took his eyes off himself, his achievements, his righteousness, you know the "I'm as good as the next guy" attitude, and he focuses intently on Jesus! He even considers the things that were once so important to him as a total loss for the sake of Christ! He goes on to say he considers everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! He considers other things as rubbish, garbage, and if we may use our baseball analogy, he considers other things distractions trying to get him to take his eyes off the ball. And when we step up to the plate spiritually, our eyes must be on Jesus! He is our righteousness, He is our only hope of getting on base and eventually getting to home plate!

There's so many things in this world that compete for our attention. And I can't tell you how many people have struck out because they got distracted. They took their eyes off Jesus and got them on their own selfish wants and wishes. I've seen people not only destroy their spiritual effectiveness and their walk with God by getting their eyes on the wrong things, but they've even sacrificed their family, their marriage, their precious children. And here's what happens most of the time. It starts of with a minor distraction, but then, whether it be a thing, a substance, a relationship, a desire, a personal pursuit, we miss the ball!

Satan wants us to pursue anything or everything except Jesus! It may seem counter intuitive, but when you take your eyes off Jesus to pursue personal happiness you will end up miserable! Why? Because Jesus is the One who tells us that true happiness is found in loving others, serving others, and giving to others, and even laying down our lives for others!!

When we focus on Jesus and see that He loved us, served us, gave to us and layer down His life for us, we realize that in doing these things Jesus found great Joy! There's a passage in the book of Hebrews that describes this beautifully...

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What was the joy that was set before Him? It was you! Yep, that's right you are the joy of Jesus! Keep your eyes on Jesus and He'll be the joy of your life and you'll find joy in serving Him by serving others! Paul then said this...

Philippians 3:10-11 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Improve Your Swing By Letting Jesus Empower Your Swing

I mentioned this briefly last week when we talked about allowing The Holy Spirit to fill every aspect of our lives, but relying on God's power rather than your own is key! If we allow God to empower everything we do when we step up to the plate we will get on base! I don't know about you, but I've discovered that my power is not very powerful! My power is not everlasting! It runs out! My power is not always available! If I'm tired, discouraged, confused, struggling, sick or scared, my power can be down to zero on the Richter scale. But here's the good news. God's power is always fully charged and fully available 24/7. And talk about powerful…check this out...

Romans 8:3-6 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

Do you see how this all fits together. Keep your eye on the ball by keeping your mind set on what The Spirit desires, which is for us to follow Jesus. When we do this we will find life and peace no matter what the world throws at us! No matter what! But remember, salvation of our soul happens when we ask Jesus into our hearts, one and done, but keeping our eyes on Jesus and letting Him empower our lives is a daily decision. And this leads us to another important technique for improving our swing...

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Improve Your Swing By Showing Up For Batting Practice

Once we accept the love and grace of Jesus Christ we don't just sit in the dugout and wait for Jesus to come take us home. We don't just come to church and thank God for our salvation while the world around us is lost and dying without hope. That's not what we do. We want to be in the game and we want to do the very best we can when it's our time to step up to the plate! I'm I right?

Did you hear what Paul said? Not that I've already obtained all this or have been made perfect! He said I press on. In other words, I show up for practice! I want to become better. I want to improve. And I love what he said, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me!" What did Jesus take hold of Paul for? He took hold of him to make him the man of God he was created to be! What has Christ Jesus taken hold of you for? For one thing it was to save you from the tragedy of sin in this life and the tragedy of eternal punishment of sin in the after life. But He not only to hold of you to save you from something, He took hold of you to save you to something! He wanted to save you to the  purpose, and mission, and vision that God had for you when He formed you!

Paul went on to say...

Philippians 3:13-14 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

You might say he was swinging for the fence! Amen!!!
Paul then helps us to understand more techniques for improving our swing and ways to press own towards our God-given goals...

Philippians 3:15-16 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Improve Your Swing By Doing What You Already Know To Do

When I was a teenager, I got bored easy. Sometimes I would ask my Dad to give me a different job and he would say finish what I've already giving you and I'll give you something else. There's a lot of people and they are always searching for that new and deeper teaching when Jesus is begging them to practice what they've already learned!

I'm telling you ahead of time, this is a trick question! Could someone ever read the Bible too much? Think about this one…the answer is yes. If all they do is read it, but never practice it then they need to set it down and go do what they've read. James put it this way...

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

"Wait a minute Pastor Larry! Hold everything! I thought we were saved by grace and not by works? I'm confused!" James wasn't saying we are saved by works! He was saying that if you claim to have faith and there is absolutely no difference between the way you used to live when you were living in the flesh and your life after claiming you met Jesus, something is wrong.

It's not that once you come to Jesus you become perfect and never mess up again, Paul just said, "I'm not perfect," but listen you can't truly meet Jesus as your Savior and not see some changes in your life. True saving faith in Jesus will bring change to your life. A mere human being cannot come into a relationship with The Almighty God and walk away unchanged in some way!

Do you wanna get really deep in the things of God? Then start practicing what He's already told you to do, and get involved in someone's life by building a relationship with them and helping them find the hope you've found in Jesus and as you see them being transformed by Jesus you will begin to experience the depths of what it means to be a disciple of Christ!

Some of our men began this process yesterday as we spent time with the men at the New Orleans Mission Giving Hope Retreat Center out towards Lacomb. A powerful day!

Check out this next technique… Paul said...

Philippians 3:17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

Improve Your Swing By Studying Good Hitters

You'll find many great hitters in Scripture. You'll also find the pattern for a good spiritual swing in Scripture. And you'll find Godly men and women in this church who are living and practicing their faith who would be willing to mentor you, coach you! There are no perfect people in this church, or in this world, for that matter, but there are those who have been forgiven, received their salvation, and are seeking to live a life that will bring glory and honor to the One who gave His live for them on the Cross! They have struggles just like you, but they've learned how to turn those things over to The Lord and how to let His power help them overcome! You can learn from them! Paul told Timothy this...

2 Timothy 3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Timothy had been taught the Scriptures from the time he was a little child, but Paul reminded him that one of the most powerful reasons for Timothy to continue living by those spiritual truths was that he knew the people from whom he learned the Scriptures. In other words, he had seen and witnessed people who lived what they preached.

They walked their talk and it had convinced young Timothy of the truth of Scripture! One of the tragedies in the modern day church is the fact that we have very little discipleship or mentorship going on, because that requires time and building a relationship and a friendship with someone, and who has time for that? But that is what Jesus told us to do, "Make disciples!"

I was talking with one of our children's workers yesterday about the importance of teaching our children. There are some people who think, well, that's just little kids. They're not important. Oh yes they are! In fact this young man I was talking to told me why he steps up to the plate and works in children's ministry every week. Oh, and by the way, during the week he serves our country in the military! Why would this soldier think it's important to teach children? This Scripture is his reason...

Judges 2:8-11 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals.

This is what can happen when we aren't willing to step up to the plate and serve the Lord! So we need to learn from others and we need to be willing to be the ones others learn from! Paul wanted people to learn from those who lived a godly life, but he also warned us to learn from the mistakes of those who live other ways...

Philippians 3:18-19 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

Improve Your Swing By Studying Bad Hitters

Don't become judgmental, but you can look at the lives of people who are living as enemies of the Cross. You can learn from the consequences they are facing. And one of the easiest ways to do this without being judgmental is to remember your past and the consequences you had to deal with when you weren't living for Christ. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Ephesians...

Ephesians 4:17-24 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

That's powerful words from coach Paul!! Learn from those guys and gals who are not living for Christ. He once again talks about putting off your old self which was being corrupted by deceitful desires, and to be made new in the attitude of your mind! Our goal is to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. And that true righteousness and holiness is not self-righteousness or your own holiness but that of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord! And this leads to our final technique for improving our swing...

Improve Your Swing By Anticipating Crossing Home Plate

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Sometimes this world can be tough. I've had to conduct memorial services the last three fridays. I was with one of our firemen this past Friday saying goodbye to his mother. But she had a great faith in God and so we were able to truly celebrate her crossing home plate and know that we will see her again! And it was beautiful to see the support he had from his fellow firefighters.

And these last three verses speak volumes. We love living here and being in the game of life, but we know our ultimate citizenship is in heaven and while Jesus lives in our hearts we eagerly await His return. And we know He has the power to bring everything under His control, and that someday He will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious resurrected body! Amen.

So step up to the plate in this life, and take a swing at serving God! With His strength and power you will get on base and may even help get someone else to home plate. Live each and every day to improve your swing and when God gets ready for you to cross home plate what a glorious day that will be!
Let's pray!