Resolve to Live for the Lord
A sermon based on Romans 14:7-9
Thursday, December 31, 2015 – New Year's Eve
Who do you work for? Tesoro? Grace Lutheran? Are you enjoying your retirement?
My dad used to tell people he worked for the mechanic down the street. Now, Dad's never been a grease monkey and could only do the most basic of repairs. He sold men's shoes at a department store to earn his paycheck. What he meant was that all his money seemed to be going to the mechanic down the street, so it really seemed like he worked for him.
Likewise, we don't work for Tesoro, Grace, or in retirement. Not really. We work for the Lord. We live for him. At least that's how we ought to view our work. But sadly, we all live for ourselves far too much. We work to get money to spend on ourselves, to have a more comfortable life, to have more fun. We live selfishly.
Paul wrote to the Christian church at Rome to encourage them to stop living life so selfishly. Instead they ought to look out for the best interest of others. He encouraged them to stop living for themselves, but instead to resolve to live to the Lord.
And Paul gave them the power to do it: As they focused on the Lord and how he lived and died for them, as they remembered that they belonged to him, as they found comfort knowing that when they died they would die in him, they would find the motive, the courage, and strength to live for him.
As we are about to begin a new year, many people are making new resolutions, commitments that they want to keep to do better in the new year. This evening, let the apostle encourage you to add this to your list of resolutions: Resolve to live for the Lord in 2016 and beyond.
Our text for this evening is from Romans 14:7-9…
7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
One young couple came in to see their pastor for marriage counseling. They both had the same complaint. "Pastor, we don't think we can do this anymore. It literally feels like we're dying in this marriage."
The pastor confirmed, "Really? It feels like you're dying?"
"Yes," they both confirmed. "It feels like a little piece of us is dying inside every day."
The pastor's response shocked them. "Great!" he said, "That's exactly how it's supposed to be!" Confused they looked at each other then back to him. He clarified. "That's exactly what marriage is supposed to be: the death of self and selfishness as you learn to live for someone else."
You get where that couple was coming from though, don't you? Because too often we live only for ourselves. And when others don't do what we want them to, when their selfishness conflicts with ours, something's got to give. Someone isn't going to get their way.
That was the problem in Rome. The Christians at the church in Rome weren't getting along very well. They were showing little concern for the way their actions would impact others. "Who cares what they think? I have the freedom to do what I want," was their attitude. They were looking down on others who didn't think as they did and showed no concern for those who were weak.
Sound familiar? It does to me. Too often I act in a way that is pleasing to me with little concern of what the impact will be on others. "Who cares what they think? I know I'm right."
Too often all of us behave this way with our spouses, with our co-workers, with our children, with our parents, with our siblings… with God. When we ought to be dying to our selfishness and learning to live for others, when God demands that we live him, we too often live only to ourselves.
And just as we have lived only for ourselves, we deserve to die all by ourselves. We deserve to have an eternity of ever-increasing, all-consuming selfishness in hell where all we care about is ourselves and our loathing for anyone else grows as our bitterness overwhelms. We shouldn't have even made it this long. That we survived 2015 and that we're still here and not in hell right now is only by God's grace.
But his grace has done so much more for us! Jesus didn't live to himself alone, but he lived to serve the Father and he lived to serve us. He lived a perfect life of self-sacrifice as he thought only of what was in our best interest. He lived to earn a perfect score for us. And, ironically, the only one who deserved to live with God forever in paradise, did die by himself. He was literally all alone on that cross. Even God the father forsook him. He endured the loneliest hell that only we deserve so that we will never have to be alone.
Now we know that if any of us should die in 2016, we die to the Lord. That is, we die in him and through faith in him, we are sinless and holy in God's sight, and fit for heaven. We belong to the Lord! We know this is true because he rose again. "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living." Our sin has been forgiven! Death has lost its sting! If we die, we still live! We live to the Lord!
So right now, we can die to our selfishness and we can live to the Lord each day…
When they were bickering and fighting in Rome, each person wanting to get his or her own way, Paul lovingly reminded them, "It's not about you anymore. You don't belong to you anymore. You belong to the Lord. He rescued you. He redeemed you. But now you're his. You live, not to get your own way, but to serve him."
And Paul gave them the motive and the power they needed to live to the Lord instead of to themselves when he reminded them of the Gospel. It wasn't something they had to do as if it were a burden or pain. It was something they got to do as they sacrificed themselves for the one they loved, for the one who lived for them, died for them, who returned to life for them!
If only that young couple who came to their pastor because it felt like they were dying understood! If each would gladly sacrifice what they wanted and die to self to serve the other, what a beautiful marriage they would have!
We know what our Savior sacrificed for us as he lived and died and rose for us! Now we're eager to sacrifice ourselves for him. We're eager to sacrifice ourselves to serve others. And we can do it because we know that we belong to the Lord. He will provide all that we need and more. We don't need to be worried anymore that we won't have enough if we give too much of ourselves away, that our needs won't be met if we only seek to meet the needs of others. We know that we have Jesus and that we belong to him and that he will perfectly provide all that we need.
And so we resolve to live for the Lord in 2016. We resolve to live for him as we grow in our faith. Resolve to be in worship more than you were in 2015. Or resolve to spend more time in the Word. Sign up tonight to get daily devotions emailed to you (at WhatAboutJesus.com or search for "WELS Daily Devotions") or pick up a copy of Mediations resolve to read it each day in 2016. Read one chapter of your Bible each day. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament. That's just one chapter a day, Monday through Friday, taking Sundays off and using Saturday to catch up any you might have missed. You'll read through the whole New Testament in 2016.
Then resolve to live for him as you serve others. Write down a list of people in your life: spouse, parents, kids, co-workers, neighbors, friends. Then next to each name, come up with a way that you can serve them better, not to get something out of them, but just to give as you live, not for yourself, but for your Savior. Think of ways in which you can help strengthen their faith.
Resolve to live to yourself less in 2016 and to live for the Lord more. If you want, resolve to lose a few pounds. But don't just do it so that you look better and feel good about yourself. Do it so that you have more energy and more years to serve your Savior better and longer. If you want, resolve to get your finances in order. But don't do it just so you feel more financially secure and can get more of the stuff you want. Do it so you will be able to give more generously. If you want, resolve to get more organized. But don't do it just so you have more control of your life. Do it so that you might show more hospitality in serving others.
Resolve to live to yourself less, and to live to the Lord more. He lived for you. He died for you. He lives again for you. So you know that if you die this year or this evening, you die to the Lord! You will go to be with him in glory! If you live another year, live for the Lord and serve him in thanks. And as you do, he will provide for all that you need. And what a beautiful relationship it will be!
Tonight as you go to bed, you may pray that familiar prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep." And you can add that comforting truth that if you die, you die to the Lord: "If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." And you can be confident that he will. But don't end the prayer there. Add one more line: "If I should live for many days, I pray the Lord to guide my ways." And resolve to live for the Lord. In his name, dear friends, amen.