In his final service as pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church, Bill summarizes his life of ministry, offers counsel to the church, and paraphrases Gary Cooper’s line from, “The Pride of the Yankees,” when he says, “I’m the luckiest man that ever lived.”
In his next-to-the last sermon as pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church, Bill Self urged the congregation to “finish the game.” He said, “Whoever you are, whatever your age is, whatever you’re facing, whatever you’ve been through, life does not end there. Finish the game and understand that it has four quarters in it, or seven stages, whatever. And don’t let anybody tell you that it ended when you became 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 or 70 or 80, don’t let anybody tell you that it’s over. It’s over when they put you in the ground. But then that’s the beginning because God raises you up and you’re with Him forever. Finish the game!”
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Bill Self said, “We all have a past... And I’ll guarantee you that if we go into your past and my past, we’re going to find some things back there we don’t like. I don’t mean we’re all deep dark criminals or anything, but there are bad judgments, bad decisions, bad days, everybody has it back there... But I don’t care what you think about what you’ve done, you’re not big enough, I’m not big enough. All of us together are not big enough, to create a sin big enough that God can’t forgive.”
Bill Self explains four steps to grow from a “Peter Pan” Christian to one who is mature in their faith. “The Christian faith is not a crystal or a china porcelain teacup that will chip and break. The Christian faith is an oak tree that has deep roots. And people smarter than you and me have tried to destroy it and they haven’t been able to do it.”
In this stewardship sermon, Bill Self said God expects His people to live sacrificially. “We want the Spirit of God to dwell with us, as God has promised it would. We need to open ourselves up to Him. We need to say, ‘I’m a part of that. I want to lift a load of this world.’ I’ll guarantee you that there’s a direct correlation between the sacrifice of God’s people and the presence of God and their service and the effectiveness of their ministry.”
Bill Self says that participation is critical to living a significant, meaningful life. “If you want to be somebody spiritually, if you want your life to mean something, participate! If you want your church life to mean something, participate!” He said, “Don’t be a spectator. Take part. You get out of life what you put into it. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”
Bill Self addresses the often-asked question, “Where is God when it hurts?” And while there are no easy answers, Bill said, “Jesus didn’t say we’re going to get through this world without being scarred, but He said, ‘I’m with you every step of the way, in everything that you’re in, I’m there. And I’ll bring you through to the end.’ You can’t get away from God’s love!”
What are the three most important things we need to know about God? Bill Self delves into that question in this sermon entitled, “Some Things to Think About.”
Words are powerful. They can inspire people and bring them to their feet, or they can bitterly hurt and demoralize. Bill Self says, “The tongue controls the body and what we are shows in our language.” God views our words seriously and in this sermon Bill explains how we should use them to help, rather than hurt.
What are the keys to a long, meaningful marriage? Bill Self looks at Scripture and also shares tips from Johns Creek Baptist Church’s Golden Club, an organization of couples married 50 years or more.
Bill Self challenges the Johns Creek Baptist Church to be the church God intended. “The purpose of church is not to make us feel good. The purpose of church is not to satisfy us with oratory, teaching or music. That’s not why we’re here ... We are here for the world, and that’s why God blessed us... Our purpose is to affirm God’s agenda.”
Bill Self says each of us have defining moments that help set the trajectories of our lives. But the temptation is often to aim low and play it safe. “The question God is going to ask the deacons and committees and Sunday school teachers, the question He’s going to ask you, ushers and church members is, ‘Did you aim high, or did you aim low?’”
Bill Self says everyone has special times when life is good — soaring times. But life also includes ordinary days — for people and churches — and sometimes it’s hard to move. God promises strength for His people in those times. Bill says, “You can soar. You can run. And you can walk. Because God’s in it with you, all the way. All three are a part of God’s plan. But the key is, you’ve got to take the step. You must take the step. You must do it.”
Bill Self explains who Baptists are and why he has been one all his life. “Jesus Christ has called us to feed the hungry, so here we feed. Jesus Christ has called us to help a church somewhere...We’ve come together to tell the world what Jesus Christ can do. We’re missionary people and we’re testimony people. That’s what makes a church alive. Not this inward feel-good stuff, but the outward makes a church alive.”
Bill Self relates the top five reasons people give for not joining the church. But despite the explanations, he says “there’s a craving in each one of us, whether we admit it or not, to be a part of a group. We don’t want to be separate. We want to be connected with other people... We join all kinds of groups that are sympathetic to what we are to feed ourselves.” The church is different, Bill says, because “the church is made up of Jesus’ people.”
In this Father’s Day sermon, Bill Self continues a study of the 23rd Psalm. “The Psalmist is saying, ‘You are God’s special person. I not only give food and shelter and take care of you, but I give you the gift of being special.’ That is powerful. Many people go through life and they never feel special.” And as he did for more than 40 years, Bill concludes with the retelling of a portion of Harper Lee’s book, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Bill Self: “We all desperately need it. We all desperately want it. It is like oxygen to the lungs. It is like protein to the body. It is the nurture and blood of the spiritual life. We all want it, but sometimes we don’t know how to get it. It’s called the blessing... A way of touching human beings in such a way that they felt approved by God, loved by God.”
For many years Bill Self would tell those people who had just made public decisions to join the church, his classic three-point instruction. “I want you to be here when we’re here. I want you to get involved in a small group, and I want you to help us carry the load.” He used that outline as the basis for this sermon, which continues explaining the early origins of the church, and how God intends it to carry out His purposes today.
Throughout his entire ministry, Bill Self was a staunch defender of the church. In this sermon, Bill explains God’s plan for the church as the body of Christ and why it is essential for every Christian. “God uses the church as a way to bring strength to us and give us roots... God uses the church to help us be what He wants us to be. And we can’t do it alone.”
During a time of national financial difficulty, Bill Self challenged the Johns Creek Baptist Church to step up and do more. “I want this to be the finest hour in the life of our church, and it can be. We do not well if we know and do not tell. We do not well if we have and do not give. Jesus said, ‘Give and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over they will pour into your lap, for by your stand of measure it will be measured to you.’ It’s up to us.”