Your Life Is What You Make it
Your Life Is What You Make It1
What do you think of when you hear the word, “upgrade”?
Cellphone to iPhone 3G, Verizon sent text
Upgrade a car
Upgrade to first class
KC Chiefs QB Mahomes -$500mil
Upgrade your life?
Kid to teenager
Teenager to adult
Single to married
Childless to kids
Sick/high risk to healthy
Middle age back to young again
Husband/wife isn’t model man/woman you married - passing thoughts about upgrade
Entertained thoughts about upgrading God. You would never say it that way, of course,
Thought Jesus would make life easier, not more difficult. Non-believers cruising through life, no struggles, “why is God holding me back?”
Want a god who answers prayer immediately
Want a god to makes problems go away
Gives me what i deserve
Makes life a little easier
And just like the serpent's first motivational speech in Genesis 3 that Mary read, that serpent continues to whisper a false gospel in your ear: You have the power inside of you to upgrade your life. You are the solution to the problems in your life. You can implement the improvement you are capable of that will unlock the power of you. Did God really say he’s in charge and that he’s good? It doesn’t look like it. You’ll have to let him sit this one out, because again, he’s not doing a great job. Your Life Is What You Make It.
Life Is What You make it = You start with the life you currently have, and re-form it into a new (hopefully better?) life.
When someone does that well = self-made (businessman, entrepreneur, CEO, etc) = no outside help, no inheritance, large gifts, big breaks, only blood, sweat, tears.
And Your Life Is What You Make It is used to try to motivate you to make something of your life.
No one is going to do it for you. You have to get off the couch and make something of yourself. Or, look, you get out what you put in. If you’re willing to work hard, you can have nice things.
And, as with all of the deceptions of Satan, there is some truth to it. It’s half truth at best, but that’s what makes it deceiving.
The trouble is that Satan is always trying to get you aiming at the target of self instead of the glory of God.
Turn to Genesis 11
G 1&2 - Creation, meeting God, Humans = multiply, fill the earth
G 3&4 - First family falls to temptation “life is about them”, chooses own wisdom, leads to bitterness, separation from God, murder
G4&5 - the world spirals into wickedness.
G6-9 - God judges the world w/ worldwide flood, sparing only Noah and his family in a giant boat made from gopher wood, covered w/ asphalt or pitch
G10 is a brief history of the years after Noah’s ark, come to G11 to a story about a city with a tower
A couple things you notice right away.
Rebellion against God.
What have people done with God’s command to fill the earth? Rejected it. Look at verse 4 – let us build a city… otherwise we will be scattered throughout the earth.
Let us build ourselves a city, make a name for ourselves.
Who is the focus on? Themselves, obviously.
What is the goal? Fame, fortune, prosperity, security
Life is what you make it. If we don’t build this city, we’ll be scattered around the world, unknown, insignificant, and weak. But there is strength in numbers, and we could be the greatest people on earth. We could build a city people will come from miles around to see.
And back in that day, when you put a brick in a wall, sometimes you scratched your name on the brick so others would know who had a hand in building this.
What’s with the tower?
Look at verse 3 and what they make the city out of
Bricks and asphalt. Bricks I get, but why asphalt? What’s the point? Think back to why Noah was instructed to put asphalt all over the ark he made. To make it waterproof
Why would these people want a waterproof city with a tower high in the sky? So God couldn’t judge them with another flood! This city is floodproof! Judgement proof! GOD-PROOF!
If there ever was a story that said “your life is what you make it”, it’s this one! You don’t need God. He’s holding you back! You have the power inside of you to accomplish great things – all you have to do is unlock the power of you! You can make a name for yourself, and when you do, who will judge you then? Look what you have made!
And you know what? You might succeed in getting that city built. You might go on and land that date with the girl or the guy you’ve had your eye on. You might even get married. You might land the job, and make millions. You might end up with the luxury car or 3 in the driveway and the Joanna Gaines house. And what you call the blessing of God, the devil calls a win.
The devil wants you focused on yourself, and he wants you to swagger a bit before he destroys you. What the devil wants from Christians is aggressiveness and assertive self-interest.2 If the Greatest Commandment is to love God first and our neighbor second, what are we saying when we are “looking out for number one”? We’ve put ourselves in the place of God!
“Your life is what you make it” is the battle cry of the insurrectionist. It is treasonous. And it leads to and deserves judgment and death.
Let’s see what happens with the tower:
Genesis 11:5 - Then the Lord came down to look over the city and the tower that the humans were building.
That is what you call biblical humor. Squat down to see the tower. “Whatcha making? That’s cute.”
Moses - author - “God is bigger than anything you could make of yourselves.” Pyramids, monument to self. God is bigger.
Not the last time God came down to earth. One day he Literally came down to see our condition by experiencing it. Walking in our skin for 33 years.
Imagine Jesus is with his disciples, and they are walking by this little amphitheater in Jerusalem, and he sees a guy preaching to a group of eager men and women. And he sees a little crowd is forming, so he walks over. And the speaker is animated and charismatic, and he’s looking at them all in his motivational speech, points to each one of them and says “your life is what you make it! All you need are the tools to tap into your inner potential, and you can implement the improvement that unleashes the power of you!” And as he does, his finger lands on the Son of God in the flesh as he says, “You sir, you have the potential inside of you to make a difference in this world. I’ve noticed you are homeless and seem to surround yourself with toxic people. All you need are the right tools, surround yourself with the kind of people you aspire to be like, and you can unleash the power of you. You are enough!”
I imagine by the end of that little spiel, Jesus' disciples are either ready to fight, or they’re rolling on the ground in a fit of laughter.
Think of what Jesus could have accomplished if he’d have tapped into his inner potential. He could have healed everyone, stopped every funeral, provided meals for every homeless person, made every fisherman’s net full of fish. He could have called on angel armies to come and stop Roman oppression, and he could have shown the world just how powerful God is by putting on a show in all the towns. I mean what if instead of 3 years of ministry, he would have had 30!
But he didn’t live that way. Even Jesus wasn’t self-made. He was filled with and dependent on the Holy Spirit, perfectly obedient to the words and will of his Father, and knew his calling. Philippians 2 says although he was in very nature God, filled with the fullness of God, he didn’t play that card. It’s like sitting around the table when someone tells a gross story, but you know you can top it and you just smile and nod and you gross out with everyone else listening, but in your mind you know you could ruin someone’s lunch.
There was literally nothing Jesus couldn’t do! But what was his definition of success?
His definition of success was obedience to and love for the Father.
Homeless, dependant on others = successful
Surrounded by misfits = successful
No horses, army, no marketing department = successful
Didn’t look to make a name for himself, trusted his Father, and became a servant – even when serving led to death at the hands of the very people he created in his image. Listen to Philippians 2:9-11 - For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He didn’t seek out a name for himself, he was obedient to the Father, and trusted the FATHER, and in the end was given a name that the whole world will recognize.
“Your life is what you make it” begs the question: “What are you making it?”
I think the way most people would answer that question, especially here in modern western culture is, I’m making it whatever I want it to be.
Successful – making and having lots of money
Active – looking for adventure
Influential – use social media to promote something
Famous – through sports or TV
Free – I come and go as I want, no rules
I think mostly we’re making our lives busy. Satan loves busyness.
Jesus was never rushed or in a hurry = successful
There was a lot he could have done = successful. It is finished. I’ve done the work my Father sent me to do
Remember, Moses is writing the book of Genesis to show the people of Israel what God is like. And I believe this story of the Tower is a warning to the Israelites then and a warning to us now, that when you try to make a life for yourself apart from joyful obedience to God, digging into the power of you to get what you want out of life, no matter how big or great our accomplishments as individuals or even as a country, God has to squat down just to see it, and he will call us to account for idolizing our prosperity and wealth. He will call us to account for idolizing our freedoms. He will call us to account for idolizing our independence and might and wanting to make a name for ourselves. He will call us to account for worshiping our health.
Genesis 11:6-9 - The Lord said, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let’s go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech. (There it is again – let’s “go down there”.) So from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore it is called Babylon, for there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them throughout the earth.
They set out to make a name for themselves by being great, but the name they ended up making for themselves was Babylon, or Babel, referring to the confusing sound of everyone speaking a different language, and stopping a massive building project in the middle of it, leaving it unfinished.
The cost of your soul
At the bottom of the deception, “Your life is what you make it,” is the deadly lie that God is holding out on you, that you should get what you can while you can, because if you’re going to make it in this world it’s going to be by your own hand. The world God has made is not good, the lie goes, and if you want satisfaction, you’ll have to make it yourself.4
What a stingy God, the enemy whispers in the garden to Eve. Why would God put the fruit there if he didn’t want you to have it? Upgrade your life from just being a creature to being like God. Let’s see what you can make of the world without him holding you back.5
Every year, more and more self help books are written. The problems self-help books address are many. Finances, personality, dieting, fear, anxiety, etc. But the solution is all wrong. What's really wrong is that the wages of sin is death: Death to relationships, death to peace and joy and hope, death to contentment and purpose that comes from knowing our Creator.
In 1910 the London Times asked a number of authors to write on the topic "What's wrong with the world?" G.K. Chesteron submitted the shortest response: "I am."
At any point in time, the greatest evil in the room is me. I am not the answer to my problems. I am the problem. Not boss, not wife, not kids, not our culture, not rioters, not liberal theology, but me. There is enough corruption in every human heart, including mine, to really make a mess of things.
So when our solution to the consequences of sin is ourselves, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and make something of our own lives, we are only adding more death to the picture by cheapening our souls, trading them for a quick fix. What does it gain you, Jesus said, if you get everything you want in this life, but lose your soul in the process? Satan whispers “everything!” And as a result, Hell will be full of self-made people who lost their souls in the process of making their own lives.
If this world is going to be sorted out, it won’t be our doing. It must be something the Lord does3. And the good news is that he has done something.
In person of Jesus, God came down, not just to look around at our cities, but to live in our skin. To resist the temptation of the devil in the desert, when he was offered all the riches, prosperity, and power of all the kingdoms of the earth, and to instead embrace the calling of his Father to suffer and take up a cross.
Instead of coming down just to look, Jesus came to do something about sin, and in his death and resurrection, giving life to those who would call on his name.
God judged the people by scattering them around the world with different languages, but now, in the gospel, he is now reversing that judgment in and through the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led global Church! As churches are planted around the world, as you reach out to your neighbors with the good news, we are participating in the process of redemption, that is headed toward a new city that Jesus is preparing for us, that will one day come down out of heaven, and be filled with people from every race, every language, every tribe on earth, rejoicing that they have been covered by the blood of the Lamb.
So maybe you’re here and you’ve bought the lie that your life is what you make it. You’ve been focused on your own efforts to construct the life you want, and obedience or loyalty to God the Father is not part of your plan. Please call out to him today for his mercy and forgiveness for the sin of self-sufficiency, self-fulfillment, and self-exaltation. The work of Jesus is enough to meet you in your greatest need, and include you in that holy city.
Or maybe you’ve been walking obediently with Christ, and you’re feeling the tug of that temptation. You’re not seeing your prayers answered. You’re not feeling close to God. Stand firm. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above (not from within), coming down from the Father of lights who does not change…
Let me close with 1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.
Let’s pray and sing a closing song.
Sermon titles and topics taken from Jared C Wilson, The Gospel According To Satan (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2020)