RISEN!: Week 5

“Are You Fully Alive?”


“I have come that they may have life.” —John 10:10

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” —Revelation 3:16

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” —Mark 12:30–31, nkjv

We have come to the fifth message on how the resurrection can impact our lives. Today’s message comes in two parts. Today we will go through Part 1 and next week we will wrap up the series with Part 2.  


The question for today is: “Are you fully alive?”

Saint Irenaeus, an early Church Father, wrote: 

“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” 

If you’ve ever been to an opening day for a sports team, you’ve seen people cheering, jumping up and down, high-fiving, and perfect strangers may even hug each other. American sports fans go absolutely crazy at games. We cry when we lose, cheer when we win, and nobody thinks this is anything but normal. People say, “There’s a fan!” But if I went to most churches and did any of that, they’d say, “There’s a fanatic!” 

Passion is a big deal in America. Hollywood movies, every soap opera, and thousands of books promote it. 

Amazon.com features hundreds upon hundreds of books with the word passion in the title. Passion is all over the Internet. If you Google passion, you can easily find articles, magazines, and books with titles like these: A Passion for Alligators, A Passion for Artichokes, A Passion for Birds, A Passion for Chocolate (got it!), A Passion for Gardening, A Passion for Golf, A Passion for Hang Gliding, A Passion for Hunting, and A Passion for Jazz.

If you’re feeling especially passionate, you can also purchase what must be a number one best seller among sauna enthusiasts, A Passion for Steam.

It’s almost as if we think it’s appropriate to get excited, be enthusiastic, have a passion for anything in life . . . as long as it’s not God. And we often are passionate about everything . . . except God.

Jesus was crystal clear about living with passion. A man walked up to Jesus one day and said, in essence, “I’m busy. I don’t have time to read the book, and I missed the movie when it came out. Can you give me the CliffsNotes version of the Bible? Is there a point to the whole thing?”

Jesus said absolutely. Here is a summary of the entire Bible: 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30–31

Feel the passion in Jesus’s words. The repeating word is “all.” Jesus’s summary was crystal clear. He was saying, “We are to love God, serve God, love and serve people with passion! I am to give it all I have. No halfhearted commitment. This is the greatest spiritual problem in the Bible. 

Question: What is the greatest sin in the Bible? 

Some Christians think the greatest sin is being Democrat. Others think it’s being Republican. Some Christians think the greatest sinners are Yankee fans. Some think getting stoned is the worst sin, while others think it’s getting drunk. You might say, “It’s the Scarlet Letter—Adultery.” For others, it’s gossip. Still others say it’s going to church in shorts. The list is endless.

The greatest sin is listed in the third chapter of Revelation, when Jesus said He’d rather have you be cold or hot than lukewarm: 

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.Revelation 3:16

  1. S. Lewis wrote, “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important. It is either ridiculous or it’s the most important thing in the world.”

The greatest sin is being disinterested in God and apathetic about His Word. Perhaps in America we’ve landed closer to what Salvation Army founder William Booth warned about:

“The chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”

When you look at people who have made the most impact in the world, they were almost never the smartest, wealthiest, best educated, or most beautiful. But they did have one thing in common: they were people of passion. 

Passionate people are world changers. 

Think of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham, Florence Nightingale, Luis Palau, the apostle Paul, King David—these are all passionate people. They said, “There are things that matter. I want to make my life count, and I’m not going to waste my life on trivial things.” 

Nothing great is done without passion. Passion is what:

  • Drives scientists to find new cures to dreaded diseases
  • Motivates people to live for great causes
  • Equips athletes to break records and get to the Olympics
  • Sustains you in reaching your goals as you go through life 

Passion energizes life. It’s what makes you alive. Without passion, your life becomes dull, drab, boring, and routine. The problem is that passion is easy to lose.

Here is a universal equation: NEW = PASSION!

All new car owners are fired up. Nobody else can drive the car. It gets washed every thirty minutes. And that lasts until the first scratch.

All new parents are fired up. All conversations are focused on the new baby. Pictures are taken every second. Then the third and fourth kids come along, and they wonder why there are no pictures of them.

All new marriages are fired up. While they are dating, guys run around to open the car door. After they’re married, they’re looking at their wives saying, “What’s wrong, is your arm broken?” Romance becomes routine. 

Everything new is fired up. New restaurants are packed. New iPhones sell out. People wait in long lines to see new movies. All new Christians start out this way, too. You get passionate when . . .

  • You first learn the great truths of the Good News. 
  • You first learn that every sin you’ve ever committed has been totally and completely wiped away, obliterated for all eternity.
  • You first learn that God made you for a purpose, that there is deep meaning and significance to your life.
  • You first learn that your future is absolutely secure—forever! God has promised you a place called heaven that’s perfect. He’s prepared it for you. Because you’ve committed your life to Christ, one day you’re going to spend eternity with Him in that perfect place. 

You get passionate when you first learn those things, and you want to tell everybody. Then we run out of gas. Enjoying God is replaced with enduring life.

Paul warned us about losing passion with this plea: 

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor.” Romans 12:11 

The key word here is keep! That means it’s not automatic. And when there is no spark, no vision, no excitement, no faith, no enthusiasm, no willingness to risk, it affects your marriage, your emotions, and even your spirituality.

The good news is this: 

if you can lose it, you can recapture it. 

Some of you need to get your fire back. Some of you need to get your hopes back up. Some of you need to catch a fresh vision from God for your future. Some of you are in danger of wasting the one life you get to live without ever catching fire and fully living. I am praying that this message will light a fire in your heart and your life that will never go out.

Jesus’s prescription for restoring your passion is the exact opposite of the lifestyle path American culture (and some Christians) use to pave over our tired souls.

Before I get started, I have assisted you in thinking about Jesus’s prescription. I have put a copy of a doctor’s prescription pad in your bulletin. There is an interesting phenomena that occurs when a patient receives a verbal instruction versus a written prescription. 

In fact, my friend Dr. Goltz noticed this and phenomena and has changed his prescriptions because of it. He noticed that when he wrote a prescription for some sort of medication, his patients would fill the prescription and take it. But when he told his patients how to improve their situation by eating healthy and doing exercise, rarely did a patient return having done that. So, he decided to write down on the prescription pad such things as “eat two servings of fruits and vegetables a day or walk for ten minutes each day.” Then he would tell his patients not only were these prescriptions healthier and cheaper, they were actually the best way of improving their health. His patients caught on or at least understood his point. 

I am presenting a similar scenario. It’s fine and dandy that you sit and listen to Jesus’ prescriptions for regaining your passion, but if all you do is listen, what good is it? 

So take the next step. I am suggesting six ways. If one of these resonates with you, Go With It! Use it! To get back to being fully Alive. Write it down as your prescription. 

Then prescribe it as needed. Maybe you need to read it once a day, or maybe you should read it once in the morning and once before you go to bed. You decide. 

Here it is:


This could also be called “How to Avoid Becoming an Old, Cranky, Boring, Uptight Grown-Up.”

Here’s what Jesus knows:

  1. Jesus knows you’re better off young
  2. Jesus knows you’re better off dead
  3. Jesus knows you’re better off dependent
  4. Jesus knows you’re better off connected
  5. Jesus knows you’re better off focused
  6. Jesus knows you’re better off missional

This morning we will go through the first three prescriptions.


Cemeteries are full of people who are dead serious about life. Jesus said these shocking words to the old, respectable, rule-keeping, tradition-keeping religious elites of the day: 

“Unless you become like little children . . .” Matthew 18:3

It’s true the Bible calls us to “grow up into” and to “mature,” and it teaches there is more to life than having fun. But maybe we have lost something in the process that God never intended for us to lose. 

Maybe what we’ve lost was signaled at the very first Christmas. The surprising message of Christmas is “God has become a baby.” That erases every misconception anyone has ever had about God. Each year at Christmas, we discover how young God is.

In his remarkable book Orthodoxy, published in 1908, G. K. Chesterton wrote,

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.” Chesterton is hinting that maybe the sun doesn’t just come up every day. God might be commanding it every single day. 

And the next morning, He says, “Yesterday was great. Let’s see it again! Encore!” Maybe it’s not automatic. Maybe God never gets tired of sunrises and sunsets. 

Chesterton went on,

“It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy.” 

Chesterton summed it up in the best one-liner: 

“For we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 

That’s what is communicated at Christmas. That’s what is signaled in the words of Isaiah: “For to us a child is born” Isaiah 9:6 

We always assume God is older than we are, grouchier than we are, more uptight than we are, but when we really read the Bible, we discover that we are the ones who have “sinned and grown old.” We discover that God is younger than we are! He is more playful than we are. He is more alive and creative than we are. He is more full of life and zest than we are. We discover that we are the old, grouchy ones and God is the young, delightful One. 

That is the exact opposite of what most people believe about God and most Christians believe about spirituality. The birth of a baby shook up the religious world. Maybe it ought to happen again. Rather than somebody becoming a Christian, and then becoming more religious and uptight and judgmental and opinionated and harsh. Maybe it’s time to reconnect with the Jesus who said, “Unless you become like little children.”


Jesus made outrageous statements like: 

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

Jesus is saying, “You’re better off dead!” This is a strange recruitment campaign. Today’s marketing gurus would laugh at promising death to get people to join. 

But today’s terrorists don’t—they’ve hijacked a page out of our playbook. The problem is, it’s our playbook. We just don’t follow it.

Today, a cross is a piece of jewelry. We forget that it was an instrument of torture and death. At the time of Christ, there were days when more than five hundred Israelites were crucified each day. They were publicly displayed where people would have to walk. Scholars suggest that when Jesus said, “Take up your cross,” He could have been standing near one of those crosses, maybe looking at it. Everybody knew He meant, “Be ready to die.” 

A life of following Jesus is built on a foundation of dying to self. The issue comes down to this: If I will not die to myself, I can’t follow Jesus. It’s not that He won’t let me follow Him. There is a “can’t” of permission, which is, “You can’t do this because I won’t let you.” 

Then there is a “can’t” of impossibility, which is, “You can’t do this because it is impossible.” For example, training to compete in the Olympics on an “All Twinkies Diet” will make your chances of being on the team “impossible.” The “can’t of impossibility” in following Jesus is this: Whatever I am refusing to die to will make authentically following Jesus “impossible”!  We’ll never make it if we try to follow two different masters. We’re better off being obedient.

Take this story of a young man, Sean was one of the wildest guys around. A former football player, Sean somehow made it through high school, then partied his way through four years at Sacramento State. During his high school years his dad came to Christ (Sean may have caused that!). Sean’s dad tried to tell him about Jesus, but Sean would have none of it. His dad finally gave up and started praying for (or at) him. 

During Sean’s senior year in college, he ran into a guy he had known in high school. They got talking and the guy said, “You’re not going to believe this, but after high school, I became a Christian.” For the first time Sean was ready. He listened, and the guy led Sean to Christ right there in the middle of the campus. 

Sean’s first move was to call his dad. “Dad, are you sitting down?” His dad said, “What now?” Sean replied, “I want you to know, I’ve just become a Christian.”

Sean’s dad, in one of the most memorable moments of a parent’s faith walk for his child, said, “Son, call me when you’re sober,” then hung up. Great response. 

Sean’s next move was to go to church (good move), where he heard his first sermon. The topic: Joseph fleeing temptation and running away from Potiphar’s wife. 

Two weeks later, at the end of a date, the girl he was with invited him up to her apartment. He went up. She put on music and they started dancing. In Sean’s words, he said, “I was just getting ready to make my move . . . and then I remembered . . . Joseph. I let go of her, took a step back, and shocked her by saying, ‘I’m really sorry, but I gotta go.’” He walked over to the door, put his hand on the doorknob, and she said, “You mean to tell me that if I take off all my clothes right now, you will still walk out that door?” Sean said, “I have gotta go now! 

He ran down the stairs, jumped into his truck, and on the way out of her parking lot, started shouting for joy because he had resisted his first temptation. 

Whatever happened to Sean? He now has a vibrant marriage, three great kids, and is pastoring a church in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Self-denial is not self-rejection. It is psychologically impossible to surrender to somebody if you do not believe they have your best interest at heart. Self-denial is the process of being weaned off selfish attitudes and sinful appetites that, as it turns out, don’t result in better living but just lead to addictive behavior, empty lives, and broken dreams. 

The amazing paradox is this: Dying to self looks like it leads to a life of emptiness and loss. In reality, dying to self leads to a life of joy and freedom. Why? Dead people aren’t stressed. Dead people don’t steal. Dead people aren’t enslaved by addictive behavior. Dead people aren’t weighed down by worry. Dead people don’t abandon wives and kids for a younger spouse. Dead people don’t judge, criticize, or condemn. Dead people are never jealous. 

Dead people are able to say no to temptation and walk out of an apartment on their way to a brand-new life. Somehow dying to sin makes me more (not less) alive!

Paul wrote, In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” Romans 6:11 

Eugene Peterson wrote, “Life confined to the self is a prison, a joy-killing, neurosis-producing, disease-fomenting prison.” 

The ultimate goal of dying to self is not to walk around with the stagnant emptiness that comes when you first begin to deny yourself something you’re attached to. The ultimate goal is to arrive at the day when you are dead to sin and alive to God. Die to yourself. You will never be more alive. We’re far better off dead.


The disciples didn’t have the answers, but they were dependent on following Jesus to figure it out. When I stop depending on God, I start depending on me. That leads to stress, worry, anxiety, regret, and frustration. Passion is replaced by pressure and panic. Jesus said, 

“Apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5 

Jerry Reed became the professor of evangelism at a particular seminary. When he got there, his presence and grace permeated the seminary in ways that had never been seen before. Everyone wanted to be with him, and everyone wanted to be him. His kids all walked with God, and all of them went into ministry. His own son met with him once a week just to be mentored—by his own dad. Amazing! 

He became a living legend among the community there. At that time, he was in his mid-sixties, yet he was the most alive person on the campus.

Someone asked him, “What is your secret?”

“You’re not going to want to hear it,” he said. 

“No, come on, you’re the most alive person here. Everyone, including your own kids, want your faith. What’s your secret?”

“You’re not going to want to hear it,” he said again. Then he told his story. “Twenty-five years ago, my wife and I figured out exactly what we could live on and how much we could give away. And then, on purpose, we gave more money away than we could afford to give away, which forced us to depend on God. 

Every year since then, we get out on a limb, figuring out where that limb would support us before it would break, and then going a couple of inches more just to depend on God. Every year we have experienced in brand-new ways that we could trust God. I have more stories of God’s grace. I have no idea how anyone has an alive faith until you get in a place where you have to trust God, so He can prove Himself.”

You are better off dependent. When you step out in faith you will experience that, “God is alive! He proves it every day.”

God is alive! And today we recognize and celebrate the fact that Jesus conquered death, death on a cross, and is risen. He is not in a grave, He is Alive! And His purpose for going through life as a human was so that we too can be Alive! 

So what limb are you going to go out on so you can depend on God? 

What part of yourself needs to die, so that you may be fully alive? 

What will it take to help you become “young” again and experience each day as an adventure just waiting to see what God has next? 

As we take the elements which represent the body and blood of Christ, take time to reflect on what you need as a prescription to be fully alive. 

Lord’s Supper.