Several years ago the movie "Dead Poets Society" resurrected an obscure Latin phrase that most of us had forgotten: Carpe Diem. It means: "Seize the Day." It's an exhortation to live life to the fullest, getting the most out of each individual day.
If you surveyed one hundred people, probably all of them would say this is what they want from their own lives. No one wants life to be mediocre, at least not many are willing to admit it. By nature, we want our lives to be full. Advertisers know about this basic human desire and build it into their slogans: Who Says You Can't Have It All, Just Do It, Satisfy Your Thirst, Life Is A Journey-Enjoy the Ride, and so on.
Unfortunately, many times we get so caught up in the details of day to day living that we just don't have time to seize the day! We've got deadlines and commitments; problems and priorities; distractions and obstacles; and though we really want more fulfillment from every single day, it just doesn't seem to be within our grasp.
Well, the Apostle Paul believed in this philosophy of life - Carpe Diem. Throughout the New Testament we see Paul seizing each and every day for the glory of God. If you follow his example, you can learn to "seize the day" and live life to the fullest, no matter how hectic your life may be. Paul shows us four simple steps to living a more fulfilling life. The first step is:
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR PURPOSE
In order for a business, church, organization, family, or individual to be successful, they must first know exactly what their purpose is.
A good example of this is the IRS. Like them or not, they know their purpose for existing. In the 1976 IRS Handbook it states: "During a state of national emergency resulting from enemy attack, the essential functions of the Service will be as follows: assessing, collecting, and recording taxes." So, while everyone panics during the crisis of war, they'll be about doing what they always do- taking our money. They know their purpose.
If I were to ask everyone in this room today, "What is your purpose in life?" I would probably get several different answers. "Be a good wife or husband; be a good mother or father; provide for my family; do my job; be a good doctor, teacher, salesman; and so on." Those answers would be good, but they are all secondary purposes. The question is, "What is your primary purpose in life?" In other words, what is your reason for living? Everything in creation has a primary purpose, or a reason for existing. For anyone or anything to be successful, it must fulfill that purpose.
Here's an easy question: What is the primary purpose of a pen? The answer, of course, is to write. A $95 solid-gold Cross Pen that is out of ink may be pretty to look at, but it is a failure as a pen; it is not fulfilling its purpose. It is useless! When it comes time to endorse your paycheck, you'll bypass the gold pen, and use a 29¢ Bic that works.
Just as a pen has a primary purpose, every individual that God has created has a primary purpose. Our lives will be without meaning - we'll be failures - unless we find out what our purpose is - our reason for living. God's purpose for Christians, as stated in the New Testament is that they be like Jesus Christ in their day to day lives.
1 Peter 2:21 (NKJV) For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
John 13:15 (NKJV) "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
When Jesus called his disciples, he said, "Follow me." That command has not been improved upon. The purpose of the Christian is to become like Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV) Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
"Ever become imitators of me" is the literal translation. The Corinthian Christians are to imitate Paul because he is imitating Christ.
Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.
Simply put, Paul's reason for living was to be like Jesus. This should also be our reason for living.
Now, someone might ask, "Aren't we supposed to be doing more than trying to live like Jesus Christ? What else should we be doing? We're supposed to glorify God aren't we?" Yes, and the more we are like Jesus Christ, the more we bring glory to God. Jesus said:
John 17:4 (NKJV) "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
Aren't we supposed to evangelize the lost? Yes, and the more you are like Jesus Christ, the more you'll evangelize.
Luke 19:10 (NKJV) "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Okay, so our purpose is to be like Jesus Christ, where do we start? We start by spending time in the Word of God. If we are going to be like Christ, we must know what Christ is like, and the only place we are going to find that information is in the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Word of God will make us like Jesus Christ. Please keep in mind that we study the Bible in order to get to know Christ. The purpose of Bible study is not to get all the answers so we can win a debate or just to input spiritual data as a legalistic duty. We are to study the Word, that we may learn about Jesus Christ, that we may pattern our lives after Him.
What was Christ like? What should characterize our lives if we are going to be like Christ? We could boil it down to two areas: love and holiness. Christ's life was characterized by love and holiness. Some Christians are clean enough, but they are not kind, and others are kind enough, but they are not clean. There needs to be a balance of both love and holiness in our lives.
Christ was holy and so should we be.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1 Peter 2:22 (NKJV) "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth";
Jesus was holy, he lived a sinless life. If we are going to be like him, we must seek to live holy. Holiness is a separation from sin.
2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 (NKJV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
To be like Jesus Christ is to be holy, we must actively and aggressively deal with our sin and discipline our lives to holiness.
Christ's life was also characterized by love for others.
Philippians 2:7-8 (NKJV) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
The act of the incarnation in which God became a man, the humble circumstances and suffering of Christ in life, and the supreme act of dying on the cross established Jesus Christ as the greatest illustration of one completely unselfish and entirely devoted to loving others. We are to have Christ's attitude.
Philippians 2:5 (NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
We know that Christ loved us because he died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
But he not only showed his love by dying for our need, he also showed us love in his life.
Matthew 8:1-3 (NKJV) When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Notice what the text says, "Jesus put out His hand and touched him." The whole crowd must have gasped. Jesus touched a leper. Jesus could have healed him with a word from a distance, but he touched him. This was an act of loving compassion. Jesus loved people, and he cared about their needs.
If we are going to be like Jesus, then we had better love and care for others. It seems like this is a very overlooked aspect of Christianity.
1 Peter 4:7-9 (NKJV) But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.
The word "hospitable" here is the Greek word philoxenos. It comes from philos, meaning: "friendly," and xenos meaning: "foreigner or stranger." So, philoxenos means: "friendly to strangers or loving guests."
Are we like Christ? Do we reach out to strangers in love seeking to meet their needs? Do you make it a priority to welcome guests here at BBC?
Our goal or purpose is to be like Jesus Christ. We accomplish this by spending time in the Word learning of Him, and then living a life of love and holiness.
Orison Swett Marden said, "There's no grander sight in the world than that of a person fired with a great purpose, dominated by one unwavering aim." If this statement could describe any of us, then we would certainly be learning to "seize the day."
In developing the ability to "seize the day" every day of our lives, we must: Understand our purpose and -
2. FORGET THE PAST
Luke 9:62 (NKJV) But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Paul put it this way:
Philippians 3:13 (NKJV) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
This is what we also must do if we are truly going to "seize the day". There are two elements of the past that we must forget. First:
a. Forget the Bad.
Paul had a past to forget. He had tortured and murdered many innocent people. He had caused a lot of pain, and had done much damage to the cause of Christ. Now he was faced with a choice. He could either dwell on his mistakes and let them ruin his chance for effective ministry, or he could forget about it and move on with his life.
Maybe you've had a bad experience or maybe you did something (or many things) long ago that you regret. Maybe the memories keep coming back to haunt you, keeping you from living a full life today. We must forget the past. It's over! It's done! It's gone! It cannot hurt you anymore. There's nothing you can do to change it. You can only forget it and move on.
On New Years Day, 1929, Georgia Tech was playing California. Late in the second quarter, Roy Regals recovered a fumble for California, and in his excitement became confused and began running in the wrong direction. After racing 65 yards, he was finally tackled by his own player at the California 2 yard line. California attempted to punt from deep in their own end zone, but the kick was blocked and Georgia Tech scored a safety. In the locker room at half time, Roy Regals sat in the corner with his face buried in his hands, crying. The room was silent. The Coach didn't make his usual half-time speech, but shortly before the team was to take the field for the second half, he said, "The starting team is going back onto the field to begin the second half." The whole team left the locker room except for Regals, who remained in the corner with his face in hands. "I can't do it, Coach," he said. "I can't play. I've ruined the team." The coach said, "Get up Regals. The game is only half over. You belong on the field."
Guess what? Our game is only half over. Regardless of the past, we still have the rest of the game to play. God is willing to forgive us - forget about the mistakes of the first half if we ask Him to.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Isaiah 43:25 (NKJV) "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
In forgetting the past, we must also -
b. Forget the Good.
You've probably heard the Bruce Springsteen song, "Glory Days," about the guy who can't quit thinking about all the fun he had back in high school. He says, "Time slips away and leaves you with nothing but boring stories of Glory Days."
Many people zero in on one good period of time in their lives - and spend the rest of their days reliving the past. Maybe it was high school, or college, or back when the children were young, or any other special time. It's always a temptation to live in the past, especially if it is good.
Our reason for living is to be like Jesus, and whatever happened yesterday, good or bad, is now ancient history. Our attitude must be, "I will live for Jesus today."
In developing the ability to "seize the day" every day of our lives, we must: Understand our purpose and; Forget the past and -
3. FACE THE PRESENT
It is easy to live in the past. It is easy to dream away the future. It's a real challenge to face the present, because it means we can no longer allow ourselves the luxury of saying, "One of these days I'll do something about my temper; my commitment to God; my health; my responsibility to my family" and so on.
In the 11th chapter of John, Jesus' friend Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived at the tomb, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. Lazarus' sister, Martha, came to Jesus, and spoke that classic phrase used by people who live in the past, "If Only." She said, "Jesus, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus said to Martha, "Your brother will rise again." Martha began dreaming about the future and said, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." She knew that Jesus had power in the past, she knew that he would have power in the future, but she wasn't quite sure about the present. Jesus said to her:
John 11:25-26 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Martha's reply was, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God." By this confession, she was saying "Not just yesterday, not just tomorrow, but today I believe that you are the Christ." It was at that moment that Martha began to face the present and put her faith into action.
Facing the present means that we put our faith in Jesus Christ today, and trust Him to be involved in our lives today. This enables us to fulfill our purpose in life.
Facing the present means that we choose to live life as it comes to us day by day. Not in the past, not in the future, but right here and right now.
In developing the ability to "seize the day" every day of our lives, we must: Understand our purpose; Forget the past; Face the Present and -
4. MAKE AN EFFORT
Becoming like Jesus isn't an automatic part of being a Christian. How many Christians do you know that are truly Christlike? If you are going to be like Christ, it takes some effort on your part.
Proverbs 2:1-5 (NKJV) My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.
We see here that it takes an effort on our part to "understand the fear of the LORD," and the fear of the LORD is the first step in living like Christ.
The University of Chicago did a five-year study of leading artists, athletes, and scholars. The research was conducted by Dr. Benjamin Bloom, and was based on anonymous interviews with the top twenty performers in various fields. These people included: concert pianists, Olympic athletes, tennis players, sculptors, mathematicians, physicians, and a number of other achievers. Bloom and his team of researchers from the University of Chicago probed for clues as to how these people developed their skills. For a more complete picture, they even interviewed their families and teachers.
The report stated conclusively that it was not great talent, but drive and determination that led to the extraordinary success of these individuals. Bloom noted, "We expected to find tales of great natural gifts. We didn't find that at all. Their mothers often said it was another sibling who had the greater talent." What they found were extraordinary accounts of hard work and dedication.
The great Babe Zeharias was asked by a reporter how she could hit a golf ball like she did, and she answered, "Simple, first you hit a thousand golf balls. You hit them until your hands bleed and you can't hit any more. The next day you start over again, and the next day, and the next, and maybe a year later you might be able to go eighteen holes, and after that you play every day until the time finally arrives that you know what you are doing when you hit the ball."
Christlikeness isn't automatic - it takes effort, determination - spiritual perspiration, if you will.
A young soldier and his commanding officer got on a train together. The only available seats were across from an attractive young woman who was traveling with her grandmother. As they engaged in pleasant conversation, the soldier and the young woman kept eyeing one another; the attraction was obviously mutual. Suddenly the train went into a tunnel and the car became pitch black. Immediately two sounds were heard: the "smack" of a kiss, and the "whack" of a slap across the face. The grandmother thought, "I can't believe he kissed my granddaughter, but I'm glad she gave him the slap he deserved." The commanding officer thought, "I don't blame the boy for kissing the girl, but it's a shame that she missed his face and hit me instead." The young girl thought, "I'm glad he kissed me, but I wish my grandmother hadn't slapped him for doing it." And as the train broke into the sunlight, the soldier could not wipe the smile off his face. He had just seized the opportunity to kiss a pretty girl and slap his commanding officer, and had gotten away with both!
Now, that young soldier knew how to "seize the day"! In the very same way, we must take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to fulfill our purpose in life.
God does not want us to waste our lives away. He wants us to "seize the day" and live every day of our lives on purpose. He's given us a reason for living; to be like Jesus. It's not going to happen yesterday, so we must forget the past. We can't put it off till tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes. It has to happen right now, and it will - if we will "seize the day," and make it our own.