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.”
Drawing from Ephesians 1 and 2, along with historic documents and American songs, Bill Self celebrated Independence Day with a challenge to the church to “Keep America Beautiful.” He said, “We have a stewardship of a gift that few people in the Christian faith have, and that is a nation that gives us the freedom to propagate the faith ... We are an exceptional people. We have the freedom to think and to be, to make it or not make it. The freedom to write and to speak ... We have an obligation as the church, not to remove ourselves from the civic life, but when we go into the civic life to be the people of Christ. ... We need a new kind of Christian. We need a new kind of commitment... A new church, the body of Christ, committed to one another and to Him ... doing the work God created us to do. That’s how we keep America beautiful.”
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 Mother’s Day sermon, Bill recounts Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha, pointing out that we, like Martha, often have our priorities wrong. “We spend our time doing the minor things and miss the main event … And whether you’re a Mary or a Martha, you need to understand that every day is a challenge where we must choose between the important from the unimportant. That which lasts from that which is popular.”
Dr. Self says that “somehow people have severed the cord between the pocketbook and the heart that operates in the Christian faith … There’s a whole industry that tries to separate the two.” But he explains how God sees it differently and offers 10 practical applications..
One of Bill Self’s favorite phrases was, “You cannot NOT communicate ... Even if you’re silent you’re communicating something.” Scripture assigns great power to words and Bill said we will all be held accountable by how we use them — to help or to hinder, to build up or tear down.
Explaining the title of the sermon, “You Don’t Need to Advertise a Fire,” Bill Self said, “If something exciting is going on, people will come and watch.” Applying that principle to the church he said, “If you want people to hear the gospel, then something has to happen in the heart of the church and people will come and watch that church burn.”