Step 1So last week Ken introduced us to a new series called Step 1.  What he was doing was sharing the big picture of life.  Do you remember who it is that we humans are created to be like?  I think it’s a pretty incredible point and one that we need to revisit often.  We were actually created to be like God.  We were literally created to reflect God’s glory.  That is a pretty big deal and really humbling if you ask me.

Genesis 9:6-7 God made humans in his image reflecting God’s very nature.  You’re here to bear fruit, reproduce, lavish life on the Earth, live bountifully! MSG

Wow, we were created to reflect the very nature of God…isn’t that an incredible thought?  God created us on purpose, with a goal for each and every one of us.  That goal is to play a role in the greater story that is unfolding all around us every day.  The God story is the reality of life.  God literally has a story that is unfolding from the beginning of His creation.  I think it’s important to know that God has a story unfolding all around us, that he is inviting us into.  I have always found it amazing that God loves us enough to give us choices in the process.  Have you ever thought about that?  God loves us enough to want us to love him back.  How incredible is that?  I mean if it’s me, I would just force us into the story!  I also think it’s important to remember that inside this amazing story that is unfolding God gave us the central figure…the hero, his name is Jesus!  Many people would like to believe that they are the hero of the story but the reality is it is Jesus.  Remember God created us to reflect his glory, but sin entered the scene and really messed that up.  When I say really messed that up I mean really messed it up.  Sin distorted the reality of the God story and made it hard for us to even identify the story, and extremely challenging for us to focus on the hero!  As I read these words from Jesus this past week I felt like they ring so true to how sin tries to distort the truth.

John 8:42-47 “If God were your father,” said Jesus, “you would love me, for I came from God and arrived here. I didn’t come on my own. He sent me. Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it. You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. I arrive on the scene, tell you the plain truth, and you refuse to have a thing to do with me. Can any one of you convict me of a single misleading word, a single sinful act? But if I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone on God’s side listens to God’s words. This is why you’re not listening—because you’re not on God’s side.” MSG

So in this chunk of scripture we can see a couple of things.

  1. God sent Jesus to speak truth and redeem the glory of God in us!  Such a powerful scripture here…

2 Corinthians 3:18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. GNT

Ken brought this out so well last week.  God took care of the sin problem by sending us the hero to the story!  The reality is that Jesus is the answer to the big sin problem.  The cross is bigger than all our sin and all our issues.  I just love how Jesus is confronting something here…we need to see this.  He is saying that some of these people are on the wrong team!  Look at that statement again from that scripture in John “Why can’t you understand one word I say?”  That should just nail your heart.  Jesus is here to redeem us…to help us be restored to the very people that reflect God’s glory but sin has entered the world.  Jesus also shows us the second thing that we need to see here…

  1. This is a world at war, and we all pick a side.  Jesus is saying the reason these people can’t handle the truth that he is speaking is because they have chosen their side.  I have talked to you about this before there just is no middle ground.

1 John 2:15 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. 16 Practically everything that goes on in the world — wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important — has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. (MSG)

So in the God story we see there is two sides…Paul really showed us this line in the Romans series.  There is the world’s ways, and there is God’s ways.  There is right and there is wrong.  There is really no middle ground here.  I like the way Paul showed this to us in Romans…basically he said there are two sides…if you choose to live in both you have chosen the worlds ways…your ways…over God’s greater story.  Jesus said this…

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.  NIV

Again…we all pick a side, Jesus makes this pretty clear here…

“Anyone on God’s side listens to God’s words. This is why you’re not listening—because you’re not on God’s side.”  Jesus

  1. We have an enemy.  Jesus lets you know very clearly, that you and I have an enemy.  He is a liar…he is The Liar.

“Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it. You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. I arrive on the scene, tell you the plain truth, and you refuse to have a thing to do with me.”  Jesus

I really wanted you to see this as we enter today’s message.  You live in a world at war, and you will choose a side in this war.  The reality is that I don’t think too many of us are excited to join Satan’s team!  We aren’t sitting around making that decision on purpose.  This is why Jesus exposes him as a deceiver. The reality is in this fight your opponent is already defeated by Jesus and his work on the cross.  You are fighting a defeated opponent.  He can’t square you up and take anything from you, so he resorts to deception and he is good at getting you to give him ground.  The reality is that He is a liar and he is doing whatever he can to keep us from accepting the invitation into the God story.  If you are in the God story then we see that his job becomes to do whatever he can to knock us off course.  Here’s a scripture I share a lot…listen to Jesus here…

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

Ok so this is so key to our talk today.  Jesus explains why he has come…so that we can have life and have it to the full.

Do you know when you experience life to the fullest?  It’s when we accept the invitation into God’s story.  We are at our best and feel fully alive when we are reflecting God’s glory!  Ken shared last week what it means to reflect God’s glory:

  1. Submit to Christ as our Lord and Savior and recognize just how dependent on Jesus we are ally are!
  2. We live every day in faith by taking full responsibility over ourselves and our decisions. 

This is when we begin to reflect God to the world.  It’s when people see God in you through these actions.  So this is life fully alive, when we are fully engaged into the God story doing exactly what we were created to do…reflecting His glory.

So we saw in John 10:10 that Jesus shares his primary objective.  He came to give us life and life to the full…he does this through redeeming us, cleansing our sin and allowing us to reflect God’s glory again…how awesome is that, we are restored to what God originally created us to be!

Jesus also explains our enemies primary objective in John 10:10…describing him this time as a thief who is here to steal and kill and destroy.  So if the whole objective of the war is to restore you and I to a place where we can engage the God story and be fully alive in it reflecting God’s glory, what do you suppose your enemy is trying to steal, kill, and destroy?  That is right, he never wants you to experience that life to the full…and that is what we need to look at today.

Have you ever had a dream?  Something that just excited you?  Something that you couldn’t get out of your mind?  Think back to when you were a child, remember when you dreamt of being something in life?  Often times God shows us the story, way out ahead of where we are.  We get glimpses into our hearts of what our life could be…or maybe should be.  We get excited and hope to one day accomplish that dream…but often times those things don’t happen do they?  There was something in your heart that stirred you, that excited you…and somehow it just faded away didn’t it.  Well what if that wasn’t so random?  What if that dream was your invitation into the God story and what if you actually have an enemy that is doing his best to knock you off course…the last thing he would ever want is you to experience life to the full!  Let me hurt your brain a little more…what if you are in the God story thinking that you are not?  Wondering where God is, when all the while he is there and he is calling all the shots!?!  Well we will get into that.

You know when I was a boy God showed me something.  I was going to be a Pastor.  I know you find it hard to believe that now…since I am a Pastor but I saw it clearly as a very young boy.  I lived in McAllisterville, Pa back then and my dad had made me a basketball hoop that was like 7’ high and I was out shooting hoops one day and God showed me what I know now was my place in the God story.  It excited me, and I knew in my heart that this is what I was going to do with my life.  But that dream became the last thing I would ever want to do and frankly even a couple of years ago I was still trying to avoid it…even when I knew that this calling wasn’t going away.  So what happened?  How do I go from being a young boy, filled with passion and excited about this calling to a man running from it assuming it will never happen?  It’s because I got knocked off course.  It’s amazing what the enemy throws at us in an effort to keep us from stepping into the God story.

Remember you have an enemy.  He has come to steal, and kill, and destroy…and as I told you he cannot just square you up and take you on…because he has already been defeated by Jesus’ amazing work on the cross, but here’s where he has an advantage on you.  He is focused on the fight all the time, and he knows your primary objective even better than you do.  He knows you have been invited into God’s bigger story and he will try hard to keep you from standing in your role inside the story…and he will do this by any means necessary.

He will use people, yes people.  I find it amazing how many times we see someone hurt by others, discouraged by others.  We live in a world of hurt people and what do we know about hurt people?  Hurt people, hurt people.  What’s more amazing is how those hurts that we are struggling with internally are typically the places people hit, without even really knowing it!

He will use those hurts.  How many times have you been hurt or wounded and made that mental decision to never go through that situation again.  I can tell you many stories of hurts in my own life…I know, I know Pastors don’t get hurt, I hear you.  But I can tell you of countless moments in my life where I felt discouragement, and hurts that would push me farther and farther away from my role in God’s greater story.  It’s scary for me to think how many hurts I allowed to shape me…and mold me.

He will use our own flesh against us…really when I say that I am talking about our desires.  We have desires, we want people to like us.  We want to be famous.  We want to do great things!  Well for God of course!…and none of the things I’ve mentioned are wrong, but as we will talk about over the next couple of weeks, when those desires become central in our lives…well, Jesus isn’t.  We don’t need a hero in this story remember we already have one!  The enemy loves to minimize Jesus…and frankly we love focusing on ourselves so this one is easy!

He will use adversity.  The reality is that adversity will hit.  I’m not saying that every time something happens it’s the devil, but I will say that many things happen in our lives that cause our stories to be knocked off course.  Challenges will come in this life, this world isn’t perfect…I’m sorry we love you too much to not help you see that…and when stuff happens, many veer off course.

He will use time against you.  So the others are pretty big, but I wanted to point something out.  God does what He wants…and he does it when He wants and often times people get knocked off course because things aren’t happening when we think they should!  I can look at my own story and say that I never saw me running as far from my path as I did and still coming back into the story, and I certainly didn’t think it would take all of 3 decades for that to happen.  I’m all for waiting on God’s timing as long as He speeds things up right!?!?

But here’s what I can look back on now, that I never would have seen in the moment.  Every part of the path that I went down shaped and molded me to be the man God wanted me to be at the moment he wanted me to be it.  I wish it wouldn’t have taken so long, or had so many humbling, painful moments but I see now just how essential the path I was on was.  It all comes together and here I stand recognizing that I am in God’s greater story…but I had to stay the course.

It wasn’t too long ago I was sitting up at the front of the church during one of our worship sets and I looked at the musicians, and I was listening to the music and I just thought…man I love it here…and I realized something about my life.  All the hurts and pain I felt inside the church in my youth that pushed me so far away from church weren’t for my torture, that was all for my protection.  I was being preserved.  You see I came to MRC with no preconceived notion of how church should be because I stayed far from it in the years that could have swallowed me up into the religious box that so many fall into.  The reality is that it was all part of my story…the good, the bad, and the ugly and I am thankful today that I stayed the course.  You know, we will never completely understand what God is up to, I can tell you in my worst moments I would have never said God was with me, in most of those times I felt completely alone…key word there I felt like I was alone.  I felt like I was far from God…yet all the while things were coming together as He saw fit, when He saw fit…my job was to do my best to stay the course.  There is something big that happens when we can stay the course.  When we can perservere.  Often when I think of perseverance I think of what James wrote here…

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. NIV

You know that is a big deal scripture…but when we read on we get right back the this whole idea of life again…check this out

James 1:12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate.  For such a persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.  MSG

The reward is life and more life…there it is again.  Jesus came to this Earth so that we can have life to the full.  We have already determined that we live life to the full when we are firmly standing inside God’s greater story, reflecting the very nature of God.  What I find interesting is that James would say that we find that life, when we are able to stay the course.

I didn’t tell you a part of my story today because I want you to think I have arrived and you haven’t.  I have plenty to work on in my own life…we all fall short, this is why we celebrate Jesus so much!  In many ways I didn’t want to share it, because I don’t want you thinking anything about me right now.  I also don’t want you thinking that a dude called to full time ministry inside a church is the only one invited into the God story.  The reality is that we all are invited into this story.  None of us is the central figure in the story, God gave us the hero in Jesus…it’s not me, and it’s not you.  I told you part of my story today because I know what it is like to get knocked around by life.  I know what it’s like to wonder why God would allow me to go through so much.  I know what it’s like to have a dream, and then feel like life just takes it away and I wanted to help you see the intentional attacks that will keep you from engaging into the plan that God has for your life…because the reality is that he does have a plan for your life.  The question is will you accept your invitation into the story…and when you do, will you stay the course.  The reality is that if you do the reward is life and more life…that very life to the full that Jesus came to provide you!

So as you leave here today I want you thinking about this, what stirs your heart?  What passionate dreams do you have?  Or were they dreams that you did have that just seemed to fade away…through hurts, through discouragement, through it just taking way too stinking long or whatever.  For many of us today that is where we stand, wondering if God is even there.  Just going to work, coming home each day and paying the bills…wondering why in the world we are here.  What if there is a true purpose for you, far greater than you realize?  What if God didn’t abandon you?  What if you’re standing in the middle of a bigger story?  What if your biggest job now is to stay the course?  You see this is the bigger reality that Ken and I are trying to open up to you in these first couple moments of this series…this is the big picture of life.  It is the God story and it’s unfolding all around us, and it has been since the beginning of time.  Our job which seems so simple can be such a challenge in this fallen world…

Romans 12:1 Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. MSG

When we accept the invitation to join Him in His story we are at our best.  We feel fully alive…as we reflect His glory…so many of us make the mistake of inviting him into our story rather than just simply embracing what God does and stepping into His.  Over the next couple of weeks we will talk about the ramifications of that…but for today, if there was one thing I felt led to say it was this…

Stay the course.  Accept the invitation into God’s bigger story and then stay the course.  It won’t always look like you think it should look, it won’t always feel like you think it should feel…but in the end you will find and fulfill the plan God has for your life.  You will find that life to the full that Jesus told you that He came to give you and that James told you that you will have when you can stay the course.