NOTE: We sang the song “I Can Only Imagine” right befor the sermon – So, does anyone here ever imagine what heaven will be like? For those of you who do, I wonder, is heaven enough? Does thinking about heaven give you the motivation you need to stay a Christian? For me it’s not. Being a Christian can be tough and the promise of heaven “someday” just isn’t enough to keep me following Jesus and focusing on His blessings. Losing weight has always been pretty much the same for me. The promise of “a thinner, healthier, even better looking me” just isn’t enough motivation to cause me to eat right and exercise.
How many of you are fans of “The Biggest Loser”? How many have seen at least a few episodes?
I’ve been intrigued by NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” since season 3. This show has been on for more than five years now. It debuted in October of 2004 and just finished its 9th season in the US. Plus, it’s run for one to four seasons in 15 other countries around the world. This show is becoming popular because it’s changing lives. The Biggest Loser has inspired hundreds, if not thousands, to make healthy lifestyle changes so they can have a better life, people who will never make it on TV, people like those in this congregation who just want to live better and healthier.
But did you know that the principles behind “The Biggest Loser” have been Christian philosophies since the very beginning? If you only know the basic premise of the show, you know that the one who loses the most wins the biggest, $250,000 big in fact. Six times or more in the Bible and in all four of the gospels, Jesus talks about losing to win big too: Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. It sounds backwards, but it’s evident in all of creation and The Biggest Loser helps emphasize it.
Let’s look at John 12:24-26:
 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies” . . . but have you ever really thought about that seed dying? No, we don’t picture it as having died. We think of it as the beginning of something new and beautiful. That’s how it is when you “lose” in the Kingdom. It’s not so much that the seed dies, but that it gives up what it is now to become something new and better. That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says if we lose our life we’ll find it. We don’t lose our identity, and Christ doesn’t turn us into robots or programmed aliens who can’t think for ourselves. No, like that kernel of wheat and those seeds you plant in the spring, we have the opportunity to become something better, bigger, more beautiful, something that is useful or wonderful to many instead of just ourselves. Plus, we get to produce many seeds! We have the potential to take the greatness Christ gives us and pass it along to others so more people can become all they can be in Jesus Christ.
But unfortunately, our commitment to our lives in Christ is much like our commitment to becoming a “Biggest Loser.” As I said in the beginning, if you’re like me, we want to live healthier, but we like the way we’re living. We don’t really want to lose those habits that are keeping us from being healthy. In Christianity, we WANT to follow Christ, but we don’t to lose the life we’ve come to enjoy. In both there’s some part of us that KNOWS there’s something better for us. But despite that knowledge, we resist doing the right thing. In both cases we probably sound a lot like Paul in
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
The key to turning that around is losing. One of the first things we have to lose is the excuses.
In John 5:2-8 we hear this story:
2] Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
JN 5:7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
JN 5:8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Here’s a man who needs to be healed. When Jesus asks him if he wants to be well, he doesn’t say, “yes.” He offers an excuse. How often do we offer excuses? If we want to win at losing weight we have to lose the excuses. I don’t have time to exercise. I don’t like healthy food. I can’t afford the vegetables. Being overweight is in my genes. Excuses. They are all excuses.
And the same way, if we want to win at being a Christian, we have to lose the excuses. They may seem like legitimate reasons, but the truth is, life in Christ isn’t easy. It’s something we have to work at, much like losing weight. Jesus warned us it would be hard. But He also promised it would be worth it. There are things we need to do to grow in Christ, to find the best life possible. When we make excuses for why we can’t read scripture, come to Sunday School or Bible Study or pray continually, we’re missing out on being the winner. We may lose an hour here or there. We may lose some television time, but losing those things will make us bigger winners in the end.
As we begin to grow in our new life, health or spiritual, we will begin to lose the desire to make the wrong choices. When Jesus saw that same man some time later at the temple He told him:
“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
The more we make good choices, the less we want to make bad choices. Every time we see how blessed we are when we choose rightly, it encourages us to make another right choice. Plus when we make the choice to follow Christ, He gives us the power to make other good choices. When we lose our desire to do the wrong thing, we win.
And finally, maybe most important, we need to lose our poor self image. When you watch NBC’s “Biggest Loser,” you’ll probably notice that a lot of the contestants have to work through low self esteem problems. They don’t see themselves as worthy of being healthy or thin. And in our Christian walk many of us struggle with seeing ourselves as unique creations of the living God. We’re much like the woman at the well. In John 4 we read about a Samaritan woman who came to draw water. She came at noon, in the heat of the day when she knew no one else would be around. Everyone else in town would come early in the morning or late in the evening when it was cool, but this woman didn’t want to see the crowd. She had allowed herself to have many men, probably because she didn’t see herself deserving of having the love of a real husband.
If we want to really win, we have to begin to see ourselves through God’s eyes. It’s vital that we begin to understand God created us, created us in HIS image. He personally formed us by hand. More than six times in the scripture God tells us we were formed by him, wonderfully made.
The problem is we have an enemy who wants us to believe we are nothing. If he can convince us we don’t deserve to be thin, we don’t deserve to be healthy, we don’t deserve to be all that God has made us to be, his job is complete. He constantly and consistently lies to us. But if we want to win big, the most important thing we have to lose is our poor self image. It’s vital we begin to see ourselves like God sees us. We are precious, hand made, formed specially by God. The thing is, do you believe that? If not, you won’t be able to lose weight, and you won’t be able to live in the abundance of Christ’s love.
Paul says that in order to win at the Christian life we have to “beat our bodies.” In other words, it won’t be easy. Winning doesn’t happen overnight. It takes the Biggest Losers up to 16 weeks at the ranch and another 6-13 at home. And after they’re done on the ranch, they have to spend the rest of their lives disciplining themselves to keep the weight off. Because it’s ultimately not about losing weight, it’s about living a healthy lifestyle.
In Christianity it’s the same. We may not experience the abundant life the day after we decide to make changes in the way we give our lives to Christ. But being a Christian isn’t about being good, it’s not even about losing our life, it’s about the freedom we have in Christ, it’s about all that we gain because of what we’ve lost. And over the next few weeks we’re going to look at some of the things we lose when we begin to live our lives in Christ.
But what about today? What one thing are you ready to lose today so that you can win? Don’t try to lose it all in one day. Pick one thing. Are you ready to give a couple hours a week so you can make it to Sunday School or Wednesday evening? Maybe you’re ready to lose 15 minutes each day to read the Bible more. Are you ready to lose a bad habit or an ungodly attitude? Maybe you’d like to change your speech, the way you treat others or the amount of time you spend with your family. One thing. Just pick one thing. One thing that will bring you closer to Christ. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve walked with Him or if you’re brand new to the faith. Find one thing that you need to lose, because Christ wants you to win. Christianity is about what we win.