ave to awesome picSo last week we kicked off the Average to Awesome series and I thought that Ken did a tremendous job of focusing on the very core of what matters, and that is God.  If you remember he stayed in a scripture that I hope really rattled around in your head and heart all week long…

Matthew 5:3 “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.  NLT

I thought Ken did a great job last week of really turning our focus towards our deep need of God.  Can I ask you a question though?  Do you realize your deep need of God?  I mean we come to church and we sing worship songs about it…and when we are in a tight spot we remember who God is pretty well, but let’s face it you and I living in a very wealthy culture, where we have more than enough in almost every way.  If you think about this, it can leave us in a very dangerous place…wondering why in a world where we have so much, would we really need God in our lives.  We seem to be able to get by without God pretty well!  I mean, why such a deep need of God?  I got a nice home.  I have beautiful kids.  I have plenty of food on the table.  The bills are paid.  I’m doing just fine on my own!  This is why living in America, in our culture is so dangerous.  We curl up in the nice warm blanket of comfort, and really can’t see our need of God.  I think a lot of us are ok getting by on our own.  Let’s look at that same scripture that Ken used last week in another version…

Matthew 5:3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.  (THE MESSAGE)

Wait, what in the world?  Why would Jesus say I’m blessed when I’m at the end of my rope!  This verse in many translations comes out, you are blessed when you are hurting, when you are at the end of your rope, because then you see your need of God.

You know it’s funny, from time to time you will get pieces of my testimony here on Sunday morning.  What is interesting is that often when I get into my story about how I fell off the deep end, and crashed face first into substance abuse and near death experiences, there is typically two types of responses.  One is the person that has been there and we connect very well.  They know where I have been and what God has pulled me through.  But the other response is often very interesting.  It is typically from the person who never dealt with such terrible things in their life.  They grew up in church.  Didn’t hit any of the “BIG” sins, and often come up to me and say something really interesting…

“I wish I had a great testimony like yours, mine is really boring.”

Couples things there…first of all, uh-No, you don’t wish that you screwed up as much as I did, but I will give you a free pass on that one.  Secondly, you have no idea just how much safer my testimony is than yours!  So to those of you who have grown up in church and have done the right thing all your life here’s what I would say to you…your testimony is amazing!  Your testimony is much, much more dangerous than mine!  Here is why, when you hit rock bottom, I mean when you have nothing left and you are completely at the end of your rope, you very clearly recognize your deep need of God.  Laying in an MRI tube unable to breath lets you think to yourself, self my way isn’t working out very well.  Something has to change, or I will die.  God help me!  For many of us, we learn best through pain.  Let’s face it, for someone who has never dealt with hurts, pains, and landed in the pit of rock bottom to actually see their need of God is a miracle to me.  I tell everyone this, I unfortunately have always learned best through pain and I know I’m not alone in this, I just wasn’t smart enough to take anyone’s word for it, if I was told the burner on the stove was hot, I was going to have to touch it to see just how hot it really was.

We can’t even think about taking our lives from average to awesome without realizing that we can’t do it on our own.  We need God.  I mean we need to learn just how dependent on God we are, which is very difficult in our culture because we have more than enough in every way.

Well that raises the ultimate question doesn’t it?  Is paying the bills, and having nice things really living?  Is chasing the kids from sports field to sports field, and driving a really nice car to do it, the awesome life God wants you to have?  Because Jesus told us that He came to this life so that you could have more than just a getting by type of life!

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV

Jesus very clearly tells you that He came to this Earth so that you could have life and have it to the full.  Jesus wants your life to be awesome!  Last week Ken helped us see the tie between living an awesome life, and our recognition of just how much we need God in it!  Which I kept thinking as I read over his talk and listened to his message last week is a very difficult thing for us people to do living in the culture we live in today.  Because when you think about it, most of us are doing just fine on our own…at least that is how we feel about it.

Here at MRC we are very excited to bring this series to you!  We don’t want you to be average.  We want you to live the awesome life that Jesus told you that He came to give you!  We want you all in!  So as we start this series one of the things I wanted to do, is look at what we see as awesome, compared to what is awesome in God’s eyes.  I think this really is a big deal question because if you and I come into this series, with the wrong idea of what “Awesome” is, we are going to head the wrong direction right from the start!  People view awesome very different from God, I mean let’s face it, we see awesome so different that us humans couldn’t even see Jesus for who he was while he stood right in front of us!  The words of Solomon are so, so true!

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.  NIV

This is a big time statement made here and really helps us see that what we see as awesome and what God sees as awesome may not line up all the time!

What looks right to people?

When it comes to life, I think most of us would see awesome in our appearance, and in what we see on the outside.  So many of us would look at someone who walks in here well put together, driving a nice car, nice looking family and assume they have it.  We see the outside appearance and assume they are living the awesome life!  We compare how composed they look to how insecure, and imperfect we feel and we decide they have it, and we just don’t!  I mean did you see their home?  Did you see how put together they all looked on their way into church today?  There kids weren’t even fighting.  They are the whole package!  So if this truly were the case, then we could actually earn the awesome life on our own!  It all comes with what we do, what we acquire, and how we look!  What that means is I will do my best to be at church as much as possible.  The kids will look put together, I will stay composed and use all the right spiritual terms when I get there, and we will look as holy as possible.  Regardless of what is really going on deep inside of me.

You know what, the reality is that most people would rather look awesome than actually be awesome and I think that is a very scary thing.

People are easy to fool.  So you can very easily walk in and out of this environment and look the part.  We can all go home very impressed by your church attendance, your ability to close your eyes and raise your hand during worship, and just how nice the car you drove in with is…but in the end who you really are is what matters to God.  Jesus at one time is talking to a bunch of men who truly believed they had it all going on.  These are the men of their time who we would all look at and assumed that they were living that awesome life.  What is amazing and probably very confusing to the people of that time is, that those were the people that Jesus pushes in on the hardest!  God cares about your heart!  Check this out:

Luke 16:15 So Jesus spoke to them: “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance.  What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous.  (THE MESSAGE)

So we have to see what is truly awesome in God’s eyes or we end up chasing our tails.  We can end up buried in debt trying to look wealthier than we are.  We end up pretending on Sundays and being ok with it because we appear holier than we are, with no real care that we are completely dead on the inside hoping that no one ever knows the true condition of our hearts.  What is really interesting about that is that while we are working so hard and faking it, we are not fooling God!  We decide that I would rather look awesome than be awesome, when all the while God just wants you to be you, the real you!  We can work, and work, and work at being good Christian men and women…and never be the man or woman that God created us to be!  In fact I think all that does is exhaust us, because acting is tiring!  Busy schedules full of religious activities is tiring too!

Check this out…

Isaiah 1:11 “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?  “GOD’s asking.  “Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves?  Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats? 12 When you come before me, who ever gave you the idea of acting like this, Running here and there, doing this and that — all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?  13 “Quit your worship charades.  I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings — meetings, meetings, meetings — I can’t stand one more! 14 Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!  You’ve worn me out!  I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. 15 When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way.  No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening.  And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.   (MSG)

So God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah and letting us know something pretty clearly, he desires more for you and I than for us to be into a bunch of religious acts.  He isn’t concerned with your fasts, and your sacrifices if your heart isn’t where it should be which is interesting because I think we would all agree that we would rather eat, than not eat!  We would rather not sacrifice than sacrifice!  I don’t get it God, like I’m trying really hard here!  I’m at church for crying out loud.  I am doing everything I know to do!  Now you’re saying you don’t like my righteous acts? I mean let’s be real here I could do without working so hard at them myself!  Seriously get real here!  You know what I believe that is exactly what God is after!

So what does God see as awesome?

You know what I think this is where the rubber really meets the road for us today.  God isn’t interested in how we appear, He wants us to center our lives on Him!  He wants our words and our actions to line up!  He wants us to love Him, and love others.  Check out Jesus’s words here…

Matthew 23:1-12

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. 2 “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. 3 You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.4 “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. 5 Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. 6 They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, 7 preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’  8 “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9 Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. 10 And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them — Christ. 11 “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12 If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.  (MESSAGE)

So there is clearly a difference between what we people see as awesome and what God sees as awesome isn’t there.  Look at the big chunks of scripture we have read today.  God through Isaiah being absolutely repulsed and exhausted by our righteous acts, while we are acting that way at church then tearing people to pieces behind the scenes!  Look at the verse eleven here one more time…If you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

Boy oh boy is that hard to do.  You live in a culture that is full of people pushing forward, working to look better than they really are.  It’s hard sometimes to see that and not get caught up in it, isn’t it?  Why are they getting ahead, I wish I was acting that way so I could get ahead too right?

The other thing that is really interesting about being ok with who we are is that we seem to live in a world where everyone is trying to be like everyone else.  You aren’t really cool unless you are dressing the same, talking the same, and being the same as everyone else!  Jesus tells you that if we can just get to this place where we are content with who we are, the person that God deliberately created us to be, that’s when we are living that awesome life that God has laid out for us!

So how can I find that type of contentment?

It only comes when we can keep our lives completely focused on God.  It’s amazing but when our focus is on God, the ways of the world around us, they kind of fade into the background.  We must do what Jesus told us to do…

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  NIV

You know over the next couple of months we are going to be walking through this “Average to Awesome” series.  It is our greatest desire here at MRC that you are living the life that God laid out ahead of you, but it is so important that we start this series understanding a couple of things.

  1. You need to identify what “Awesome” really is, because the way we humans see isn’t necessarily the way God sees.  Remember Solomon’s warning:

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.  NIV

  1. You need to do is understand your deep need of God.  You just can’t get this done on your own!  Many, many people try but you just cannot achieve this awesome life on your own.

This is a big, big deal.  We will be spending a lot of time looking at three really important decisions you can make to take your life from Average to Awesome but please recognize, you can’t take your life to awesome on your own.  You need God.  You must seek Him.  You must lean on Him, even in a culture where we seem to be able to handle life pretty well on our own!

Remember God has never been impressed by how you and I appear to others.  He cares about the real us, the one that some of us don’t want others to see.  I have always seen doing this church thing with no real life change, with no real heart in the game as a really creepy hobby.  I mean I think there are better things that you can do with your time, other than show up here and pretend.  You could go camping, or boating, or simply sleep in!  It is that empty.  You may look holy to others, but you are not fooling God.

In the end His is the only opinion that really matters…right?

It’s time to get real.  It’s time to seek God with our whole hearts.  It’s time to be ok with who we are.  It’s time to go from average to awesome.