We did it! We have made it through the Average to Awesome series! We have spent around 3 months trying to engage this idea, that we can actually engage this life that Jesus told you He came to provide for us!
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
We read this verse a lot. We hear Jesus’ words that He wants to give us life and life to the full…he wants us to have the awesome life we keep talking about and it sounds great doesn’t it. It’s like there are these moments of clarity and then we go right back into life the way we have always lived it. So we hear about this awesome life, we want this awesome life, but the challenge is actually making decisions, and doing something different. It’s hard to break out of the ruts and routines of life isn’t it? It’s amazing how life keeps happening; you get up each day and do your thing and before we know it months can go by…years can go by! You have bills to pay. You have kids to care for, and you are running them all over the place. You have a lot going on. You are going to bed late and waking up early and you have these moments of clarity every once in a while where you pick your head up and think, “wow it’s almost Thanksgiving again!” You are working hard. You are multitasking all the time, juggling your schedule, your kid’s schedule, your work schedule, seriously I get it. Life has an amazing way of pushing in on us and as people it is easy to hear a concept and legitimately want the product of that concept, but it’s a whole other thing to engage it daily, and to break out of our normal routines of life and try something different. So we hear about this awesome life that we can have and we want it but life continues to happen and we can very easily slide right back into life as we always have known it to be. Here’s the goal though, to engage God each day and to begin taking steps towards Jesus. I think that is exactly what Peter is trying to help us with when he writes this…
1 Peter 1:13 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. 14 Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. 15 As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. 16 God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” (MSG)
Peter says roll up your sleeves. Put your mind in gear and be ready to engage God! Don’t slip back into the ruts of life! Take steps towards him! Take steps towards holiness! Peter even gets it in a time before smart phones, email, and electricity for that matter…life can be exhausting and look at how he describes a life that is shaped by God…it is a life energetic and blazing! He is describing that awesome life that we keep talking about!
So for some of you I get it; you hear us talk about this life, but life continues to press in, and while you have moments of clarity in here on Sunday; you haven’t made the decision to roll up your sleeves and engage, so the idea of a life full of energy and purpose sounds crazy. For others though, you hear that there is an awesome life out there, and you want it. You have tried to break out of the ruts of life, and you are trying to change your daily behaviors, you have spent these three months engaging God maybe in a way you hadn’t before. Maybe you are getting up early, and using the daily challenges Ken and I have been putting on The City. You are praying more, you are reading your Bible more than ever before and your sitting here today saying “Sam…question for you…I’m waking up and engaging God, I’m praying, I’m reading the Bible…and got to tell ya, not feeling all that Awesome.” “My kids are still fighting, I still have bills to pay, but I did all you asked, and I’m still looking for awesome, Mr. Preacher guy.” Well I want you to know something here at the end of this series. Life is a journey and the fact that you are changing your daily behaviors and engaging God each day is a really big deal! You are taking steps towards Jesus, and that is the beginning. My encouragement to you is to stay the course. Engage Him each day and you can have this awesome life that Jesus told you that you can have!
I think the danger from a series like this is that we can get to the end, and think that somehow we are now all awesome. “Like, hey everyone just did the Average to Awesome series, engaged it each day, I have now arrived!” I want you to know something, there are no levels of Christianity. It isn’t like a video game or martial arts. There are no black belts in Christianity and you need to understand something…there are no levels to your amazing spirituality. You don’t get a black belt, or become a ninja for walking through this series. You aren’t now perfect, and I want to break something to you, you will still have trials, challenges, and you will still make mistakes. How do I know this? It’s because we are people and we weren’t created to be perfect.
So if you came in here today thinking you would be getting a badge, or some kind of belt buckle or trophy to celebrate your awesomeness, I’m sorry to disappoint you! This isn’t a rite of passage, this is a change of lifestyle that will help you to live the rest of your life with God in it! So whether you are feeling awesome or not, the coolest thing is that through making these three big decisions…you know, getting healthy, getting priorities, and getting engaged you are taking steps towards Jesus!
That is the exactly what I want to close this series with today. I want to look at a man who took some serious steps towards Jesus. Today we are going to spend our time looking at a Peter and I wanted to start with his words to us found in his first letter because I believe he really is saying for you what Ken and I have been trying to say all along…let’s look at it again:
1 Peter 1:13 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. 14 Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. 15 As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. 16 God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” 17 You call out to God for help and he helps — he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. 18 It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. 19 He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. (from THE MESSAGE)
To me this really sums up the heart of our series. Peter says roll up your sleeves, get your minds right and engage Jesus! Don’t lose that focus. You call out for God’s help and he helps. Don’t forget he is responsible for the all of it! Your must never lose your focus…and never forget who your savior is!
As I read through that this week I couldn’t help but think that it’s almost like Peter is talking about his own experience here isn’t he? Peter more than any other in scripture has experienced the most wins, losses, ups and downs in his life, as he walked with Jesus. I actually take a lot of encouragement from Peter, because while he seemed to mess up a lot. Jesus never stopped loving him, and never stopped believing him, and Peter eventually becomes the rock that the entire church is built on. I love this guy and today, I want us to look at the moment where Peter took his most incredible steps towards Jesus. It’s in this story where we can learn how we can take steps towards Jesus and in reality that is what will bring us to “awesome.”
So Peter, well he did something impossible. He walked on water. Well he took some steps on water, then he sunk. I wonder if that is why Jesus called him “The Rock.” Yes it’s because he would build his church on him. Peter took steps towards Jesus, and it required some things of him that I think we need to see today.
Just to let you know where we are at, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin has been killed. Jesus tries to pull away, he is hurting over his cousin’s death but crowds of people follow Him as he tried to get alone. As the people come he has compassion for them and speaks to them, heals the sick, and spends the day with them. Jesus then performs the miracle of using 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed 5000 people. Once the crowd went away Jesus finally had an opportunity to be alone and mourn John’s death, and engage his Father in Heaven. (Wouldn’t you have liked to hear that conversation!?!) He tells the disciples to board the boat and cross the lake again, and that is where we pick up the story…
Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” NIV
So this is a pretty incredible moment and it’s through this story that we can see that there are 5 important things needed to take these steps towards Jesus.
It will take Courage.
It will take Obedience.
It will take a willingness to Sacrifice.
It will take Focus.
A desperate need of a Savior.
We could say that it really takes these 5 things to have that awesome life that Jesus told us that He came to give us…and Peter knows it.
- It will take courage. Really the first thing we see is that Jesus explains that it is going to take courage to take steps towards him. Jesus walks towards them on the waves and they are terrified! They think he is a ghost or something! What does Jesus say in verse 27?
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
The reality is that taking steps towards Jesus will absolutely take courage, because you are going to be doing the opposite of what the majority of the world is doing. The world will push you towards living for you, so it absolutely takes courage to do what is right regardless of what the rest of the world is doing. Ken did a great job last week of talking about the courage needed to break away from people pleasing. Jesus comes to these men in the middle of chaos, the wind and waves are crashing all around them, the storm is growing, they are in a bad situation, then to make matters worse they see Jesus walking on water and assume it is a scene out of a horror movie! They are terrified, and Jesus says Hey guys, take courage. Why would they take courage…it’s because Jesus is there with them.
Between the push to be like everyone else, and the circumstances of life that will hit us courage is a huge requirement of someone who wants to take steps towards Jesus.
- It will take obedience. Ok, so this one is interesting. I might be able to pull off the courage thing…but what do you mean I need to obey? No one tells me what to do right? Well I think it’s really interesting that Peter doesn’t just jump out of the boat. I think it’s deliberately explaining to us the importance of obeying God here…
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Peter remember means “the rock” right? Well rocks don’t exactly float well do they? So here in the middle of a storm with the wind and the waves and all the chaos around him, Peter ignores the circumstances and says “Lord if you say come, I’ll come.” Peter obeys Jesus, and is walking on water. It isn’t always easy to obey God is it? The reality is that when we engage the God mission we may be asked to do things that aren’t very popular. We may be asked to do things that don’t seem to make much sense to the world. We may be asked to do things that won’t be popular with our friends or even family at times, following Jesus may mean that you will upset someone in the process. This I believe is where not just courage but full out, unquestioning obedience really come into play. Are you willing to loosen your grip of control and obey what God will ask you to do? Peter was, and is now walking on the water…how incredible is that! He is now out of the boat, in the chaos of life walking towards Jesus not because it makes sense, but because Jesus said so!
- It will take sacrifice. Peter is willingly stepping out of the boat, into a storm, to walk on water. Does this makes sense? Is this possible? The reality is that Peter is telling us all, that he is willing to put his life on the line to take steps towards Jesus. He is willing to sacrifice. This can be hard…really hard, especially when you live with the kind of comforts we live with. In many ways sacrifice to us isn’t nearly to the extremes of the times of Jesus is it? I thought Ken did a great job of breaking this down for us last week, you may not be asked to sacrifice your life…maybe you will. It could be that you are to sacrifice your agenda. Your wants, likes and dislikes to engage a bigger mission in life. It could be that you will be asked to make financial sacrifices or sacrifices with your time and energy, but at some point you must be willing to lay down your desires to engage God fully. Peter steps out of the boat and into the uncertainty of life…the question you may need to ask yourself is could you?
- It will take focus. Through this series we talked a lot about the importance of staying focused on God. Well Peter was doing great for a while wasn’t he? He is completely focused on Jesus, and he is taking steps to him. For a moment he has forgotten the wind and the waves and he is doing great…then it happens.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
What happened here? Peter was doing so well, and all of a sudden he lost his focus! His eyes dropped from Jesus to the wind and the waves (to his circumstances) and next thing you know he is in a really bad spot! We must stay focused on Jesus. When we are focused on Him, and not the “wind and waves” of our lives we can continue to walk towards him. When are focus is on Him the pressures and circumstances of life fade into the background and we can walk free and light, and live in the awesome life that Jesus came to give us. When our focus is on the ways of the world, well we end up sinking just like Peter did…we end up screaming out for help in the storms of life…which leads us to the fifth thing needed to walk towards Jesus, and by far the most important thing.
- We are in desperate need of a savior. For a moment Peter is doing great, and then he lost his focus and Peter begins to sink to his death, but Jesus is right there isn’t he?
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
So really Peter looks good for a little while here…and then fails pretty miserably doesn’t he? Peter like many of us starts out making these steps towards Jesus and then boom. Life starts to hit. Trouble comes, pain comes, the storms of life begin to get louder and louder and more and more consuming and our eyes drop from Jesus and we screw up. You know what Peter screwed up pretty regularly just like you and I do. This is the beauty of the love of God; that while we stumble, mess up, and make mistakes; that God loved us enough to send us a Savior. He is right there with us willing to reach out his hand and catch us as we fall. This is the key to it all. This is the most important thing to remember, that you and I are in desperate need of a savior. Because we will mess up. We do mess up. We are not perfect…not even the people that you think are perfect are perfect! They screw up too! They are just better at hiding it than you are! God understands that you are not perfect, because he created you…imperfect! The reality is that without a Savior we are in very big trouble…that is where Jesus comes in.
You know there are a lot of people who have been hurt by “Church People” over the years. While there could be many reasons for this, the most common is that a lot of good Christian people lose sight of this one very important fact that they are in just as desperate need of a savior today as they were before they knew the amazing news that Jesus came and died for their sins. Many good Christian people end up feeling really good about how many steps they have made it from the boat. They start to think they have arrived in some way. They can lose sight of the fact that they aren’t actually the ones responsible for those steps on the water but that God is. Too many good Christians slide into a trap where they lose sight of something very important…that they are sinners, in desperate need of savior just like the rest of us. We are all one the same level of spirituality! Remember this isn’t spiritual karate, there are no black belts or ninjas of the faith (although some want you to think that of them), Paul explains this well here…
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. 15 He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own. (MSG)
Too many Christians judge, hurt others, and have no love and compassion for people far from God because they have lost sight of their own desperate need of a savior. They become those stone throwers that Ken spoke of last week, because they believe that they have arrived in some way. The reality is this is why so many people are walking through life gut-punched by church people. This is why so many churches can ignore the hurting, broken people in their communities, it’s because they have lost sight of the fact that each and every one of us is imperfect and in desperate need of a savior. You can do the other four things I spoke of well, but if you lose sight of the fact that you need a savior as much today as ever before, there will be a wake of brokenness and pain behind you. Sadly you may not even recognize it, because you are basking in your amazing black belt in Christianity. We must never lose sight of this fact.
Romans 3:22-23 There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. NIV
Paul is trying to help us understand something…and this may come as a shock to you today…NO ONE IS PERFECT! We all have been saved and we can’t ever forget that fact!
So I want to close this series with a question for you? Do you want your life to be awesome? Do you want this vibrant life to the full that Jesus told you that He came to provide for you? Well it is a journey that will not start until you are willing to get out of the boat and walk to Him. Peter showed us how to do it. He showed us that it will take courage, obedience, sacrifice, focus…and most importantly it will take a Savior. Will you get this right every day? No, no you will not. Will you arrive at some amazing level of spirituality and never stumble or have issues again. No, no you will not. This isn’t a rite of passage for you to become some Ninja of Christianity. You aren’t going to reach some weird level of holiness that many human beings want you to think that they have achieved.
This is life’s journey, it’s about understanding what it takes to step out of the boat and into the chaos of life and to move towards Jesus. You know what some days you may walk on the water…other days you may be sinking and screaming out for a savior, and it’s in those moments of pain that you may experience “awesome” at a whole new level because Jesus, your savior is there.
We want you to have that awesome life that Jesus told you he came to provide you. It will take courage, obedience, sacrifice and focus to get out of the boat…but you need to understand the most important thing is this, you can’t find that awesome life without a Savior…and God loved you enough to give Him to us.