Step Up To The Plate Improving Your Swing Part 3
Sermon Summary

This message completes the "Improving Your Swing" part of the series. We discover that we can improve our spiritual swing by studying both good hitters and bad hitters. The good hitters serve as examples and mentors for us. We also learn that God desires for those of us who now how to take a spiritual swing be willing to teach others. If we refuse, then the future health of the church is in jeopardy! We are also instructed to learn from those who are not good spiritual hitters! This includes us learning from our past mistakes! Paul said that some people were not only bad hitters, but had actually begun to live lives that made them enemies of the Cross of Jesus. By seeing the consequences of their lifestyle we are able to avoid that kind of living. The final way of improving our swing has to do with anticipating the glory and joy of crossing home plate! When we think about the rewards of living for Christ in this life and the eternal rewards of being with Him forever in heaven we are encouraged to step up to the plate and swing well!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. If we don't depend on our righteousness or our abilities to qualify us to step up to the plate and serve God why is it important for us to improve our swing? In other words, if we are saved by grace why even try to live a better life?

Rom 6:1  What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
Rom 6:2  By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Rom 6:3  Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Rom 6:5  If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
Rom 6:6  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--
Rom 6:7  because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Rom 6:8  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

2.We need to study good hitters, people who are living the principles of Christ, but in order for this to happen we need people who are willing to be studied! What are the implications of this statement?

1 Cor 10:32  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God--
1 Cor 10:33  even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Cor 11:1  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Cor 11:2  I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.

3. We can also learn from bad hitters or those who aren't even stepping up to the plate. These were people who were living as enemies of the cross. What three things did Paul observe about these folks that hold valuable lessons for us?

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.

4. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us three big picture things that will help us implement each of the techniques we've learned for improving our swing. Read the following verses and discuss the three things.

Ephesians 4:22-24 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.

5. Bonus question - How does anticipating crossing home plate help us play the game?

Philippians 3:20-21 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.

Full Sermon Notes

Step Up To The Plate
Improving Your Swing Part 3

"You didn't want heaven without us so Jesus, You brought heaven down. My sin was great, Your love was greater! What could separate us now?" I love those lyrics!
Now you know why I want to step up to the plate and serve my Lord, because He stepped up to the plate for me when He went to the cross! He did that because He didn't want heaven without us! Let's pray!

Okay let's review the techniques for improving our spiritual swing that we've talked about the last two weeks. I'm just going to mention each one. You can go back and review the details on our website by listening to the message, watching the message or by reading the full sermon notes. Here they are...

Improve Your Swing With Your Attitude
Improve Your Swing By Being Teachable
Improve Your Swing By Not Listening False Teachers
Improve Your Swing By Walking In The Spirit
Improve Your Swing By Swinging For The Glory of God
Improve Your Swing By Keeping Your Eye On The Ball
Improve Your Swing By Letting Jesus Empower Your Swing
Improve Your Swing By Showing Up For Batting Practice
Improve Your Swing By Doing What You Already Know To Do

Now let's jump in there where we left off last week! I said just a little bit about this next point in the first service, but I'm going to repeat and give greater detail today. Paul continued his discourse by saying...

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! They are practicing the principles of Godly living and 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? Right, but if we don't have anyone willing to step up to the plate to coach then who will the younger players learn from? We may have people willing to learn, but if we don't have anyone willing to teach that's an issue! A big issue and Jesus addressed that issue when He told His disciples to, "Make disciples!" It's called the great commission and is found in Matthew 28:16-20…Check it out...

Matthew 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Did you notice Jesus didn't just tell His disciples to tell people about Him, nothing wrong with that, but He told them to make disciples and that implies building friendships and relationships and being willing to take the time it takes to teach. In fact He said we were to baptize them, which is painting the picture of Jesus' sacrifice for them, and then to teach them to obey everything Jesus had commanded! I was talking with one of our children's workers last week about the importance of teaching our children. There are some people who think, well, they're 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? He told me this Scripture is his inspiration...

Joshua 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.

How sad is that? A generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel! That's what's happening in America and it's up to you and me to change that! I heard a young lady speak at the Mayor's Annual prayer breakfast this past Thursday. She didn't have an easy life growing up, but she talked about how important her mentors had been in her life. And now she's a youth minister and a school teacher making a difference in our world! But she also mentioned that the statistics show the average age of people in church continues to climb. If this continues it can only mean that we are not reaching and discipling our young people in an effective way. Let's make sure Northshore Church doesn't let this happen.

We need to learn from others and we need to be willing to be the ones others learn from! Like I said last week, we need some coaches to step up to the plate! So Paul wanted people to learn from those who lived a godly life, the good hitters, but he also warned us to learn from the mistakes of those who live other ways. Listen…

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

When Paul looked at the bad hitters he actually cried. I think he was genuinely saddened for them and troubled over the damage they were doing to others in the church. These were not people who were struggling with sin and wanted forgiveness and wanted to do better, they were people who had abandoned a pursuit of God and were fully chasing the desires of the flesh. Now I've got to explain something very important to you! I've had people who where struggling with sin and truly wanted to do better tell me the reason they didn't come to church was because they felt like a hypocrite. Let me clear this up. People who are struggling and want to do better, those who admit they aren't perfect and need God to help them or they'll never get better, those people are not hypocrites! These people need to be in church! These people need to be around other sinners who have found the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and who are fellow strugglers who aren't perfect but are getting better with the help of God! In baseball, averages are based on how many times a batter can get a hit every ten at bats. So if someone gets a hit three out of ten times, they have a batting average of .300. Did you know that no batter has had over a .400 average for the season since Ted Williams in 1941, and no batter has ever hit over .367 in a lifetime. Thank you Wikipedia!

Now, what does this have to do with stepping up to the plate in our spiritual lives? None of us are perfect! None of us bat 1,000. We all make mistakes and need God's help and the help of one another to get a hit! So don't let Satan lie to you and make you think because you're not batting 1,000 you shouldn't be in church or serving God! That's a lie straight out of the pits of hell. Hypocrites, on the other hand, are those who claim to be something they are not! They aren't really concerned with getting better, as long as they can put on a false face or front and look good to others, they are fine with their sin. They aren't concerned with stepping up to the plate and getting a hit for the glory of God, they are all about themselves. They claim they're batting .1000. That's a hypocrite!

And these are the bad hitters Paul was talking about, who were enemies of the cross. Let's see what the bad hitters were doing so we can learn from their mistakes. Three major things...

Their God was their Stomach!

In other words what they wanted was their priority! What they wanted was more important than the needs of others! Their desires were the driving force in their lives and where it drove them was not a good place! They had become enemies of the Cross because the Cross symbolizes sacrifice and they weren't willing to sacrifice anything for anybody!

Their Glory was their Shame!

In other words they were proud of things they should have been ashamed of. They gloried in things that were disgraceful and harmful to others and ultimately to themselves, but they were blind to that fact. A sad place to be. They no longer cared about the glory of God or God's ways. In fact Paul says...

Their Mind was on Earthly Things!

They only thought of tangible, material, pleasurable things no matter the cost! They had horrible attitudes, were not teachable, followed bad advice, were not walking in the Spirit, cared nothing for the glory of God, had taken their eyes off Jesus, rejected the power of Christ, never showed up for practice, wouldn't follow instructions or the example of godly people! We can learn from their bad example, but here's something I must tell you. This might hurt a little bit. Okay, are you ready for this? We can learn good lessons from bad examples, but there is a danger. If we're not careful we can begin to compare ourselves with those people and when we do we might look pretty good in comparison, but there's many reasons not to become judgmental. And one of the main reasons is what we used to be! When you remember your past and the consequences you had to deal with when you weren't living for Christ, you, like Paul, will feel sorrow for the people who are living as enemies of the Cross. You will remember the misery you were living in before finding Jesus! 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. And for heaven's sake learn from your own past mistakes! If you've never played sports, especially high school or higher levels, you may not know this, but one of the ways coaches help players improve in this modern age is to watch films of the game. When you watch a film you can study mistakes you made and that your opponent made. You can learn from these mistakes. Sometimes, when I'm tempted to repeat old behaviors from the past, I hit the rewind button in my mind and then the play button. What I see is not pretty, but it reminds me of why I turned away from those things and turned to Christ. It reminds me of my past mistakes but also of God's grace and mercy! So we learn from our own mistakes and we learn from others and their mistakes. Now, if you don't mind, I want to tell you one other thing about learning from bad examples. Sometimes we are tempted to think if I do the same thing they do my outcome will be different? That kind of thinking has destroyed many lives.

"Oh that'll never happen to me! I won't get addicted! I would never get that bad! I'm stronger than that! I can handle it! It won't hurt me! I'm smarter!" I've quoted this verse in many sermons, but it applies here in a big way...

1 Peter 5:5-6 ...All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

So we study good hitters, bad hitters, and we study our own mistakes in the past in order to learn. Paul, in this passage we just read from Ephesians, actually tells us how to apply what we've learned! This is so important if you want to step up to the plate and have a good swing. Let's read three of those verses again...

Ephesians 4:22-24 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.

I just love those verses. It gives me three very clear, simple steps I need to do each and every day as I step up to the plate to serve God! And before I tell you what they are, just remember, they are simple, but that does not mean they are easy! Simple and easy are not the same thing! Here's the three things...

Put off your old self!

When I'm faced with a behavioral decision, a temptation, a choice, I remind myself of this: wait, I don't do that anymore, I don't say that anymore, I don't think that anymore, I don't act that way anymore! By God's grace, with His strength, and with the guidance of His Holy Spirit, I will make different decisions because I am different!  

Be made new in attitude!

Just as there are things I don't do anymore, there are attitudes I don't want to be in my head anymore! Dr. Nave reminded us of an old Cherokee Indian wisdom. It goes like this...

"An old Cherokee told his grandson, 'My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.' The boy though about it, and asked, 'Grandfather, which wolf wins?' The old man quietly replied, 'The one you feed.'" Author Unknown.

That's good wisdom! Feed the truth that God Almighty chose you to be on His team in spite of your past failures and find an attitude of acceptance! Feed the truth that God Almighty, the Creator of the vast universe is your personal trainer and find an unstoppable attitude! Feed the truth that God Almighty loves you so much He allowed His Son Jesus to die for you, and find the "I'm loved beyond all measure" attitude!

Put on the new self!

Why would you want to put on the new self? Because it was 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! I want to again emphasize the following: Accepting Jesus as your Savior is a one and done event, but putting on the new self and allowing Jesus to be our Lord is a daily decision! Getting up in the morning and making the decision to dedicate this day, its circumstances, it's challenges, and its choices to our Lord is how we put on the new self! This allows us to live in the righteousness of God and it's that true righteousness that allows us to live a new life in this world! But it also allows us to look forward to the privilege of one day living in the very presence of God in heaven! This leads to our final technique for improving our swing...

Improve Your Swing By Anticipating Crossing Home Plate

Paul closed chapter three of our text with these words...

Philippians 3:20-21 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. But I remind myself on many occasions that this is not my eternal home. I'm only visiting this planet!! Amen!! Don't get me wrong, I love life, living in this world, being in the game of life, and having the privilege of serving our wonderful and loving Savior, but I know my ultimate citizenship is in heaven and I do eagerly await His return! And while we're waiting for Him to come back we don't sit around and do nothing! We do all we can to make a difference in this world by touching hearts and lives. Oh and by the way, we know He has the power to bring everything under His control! Wow that statement sure helps me when I'm feeling overwhelmed. He's got this! He's not overwhelmed by my circumstances!

No matter what I face He has a contingency, a plan, a purpose, and a power to control and work the situation so that it will bring about His divine purposes! And when my body is tired, weak or sick, I remember 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. We're going to talk about that big time next week! 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! Amen! Let's pray!