grateful idea (1)So today we are closing down the Gratitude series, and you know for a lot of this, myself included a series on being grateful just couldn’t have come at a better time.  It’s amazing how as we get running through this busy and cluttered world, how quickly we can forget all that we have to be grateful for.  I think that is why so much of this series really nailed our hearts.  Because we live in a world that challenges us, that beats on us, that keeps us stretched so thin that we forget just how blessed we are!  We run to work, and deal with so much that we forget just how grateful we should be for a job that pays the bills and gives us some extra income to throw at different fun things!  We run the kids to their sporting events or their musicals and we forget just how blessed we are to enjoy our healthy children doing something they enjoy!  We come home and are so busy keeping the family together that we can forget just how blessed we are to be in relationship with our spouse.  We function our way through life and can forget just how blessed we are to be redeemed by God!  This is why this series hit a lot of our hearts so hard.  It’s because it reminds us of all the good things we have and those reminders can be important, because we live in a world trying to keep your focus off of all of the good things and onto everything and anything else!  Gratitude is a really big deal, and it’s easy to lose it, or just not to have it.  We know as Christians, especially in week 5 of a series where it should come from don’t we?  It comes from wrapping our minds around one idea.  God loves us.  He did for you and I what we could never do for ourselves.  He redeems us.  He gives us that and we can’t earn it or repay it.  We call it grace…

Romans 3:23-24  Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them)and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us.  Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself.  A pure gift.  He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be.  And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

That is our reality.  We need Jesus to do what only he can do, and because He has done this for us.  We live in gratitude because we are loved by God.  This is huge.

You know, a couple of weeks ago we were studying Jesus’ life and I read a chunk of the Sermon on the Mount to you.  It was an awesome scripture that I thought would really touch us and challenge us as people to live differently.  I mean that really is the whole point of what Jesus was teaching their on that hill.  I have to say though, I didn’t get a lot of hugs and thank you’s after that talk!  Funny how many No Hug Sundays come from simply reading Scripture!  What Jesus said should be challenging but as I thought about it, I guess it can be offensive too.  So I figured I would read it to you again!  Ha!

Matthew 5:48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.  MSG

Ok, so nobody likes to be told to grow up, I learned that the hard way a couple weeks ago.  But there is something really profound about this statement and in it, there is something we really need to go after today.

Jesus says that we are to live out our God-created identity…can I ask you something?  Do you know what your God-created identity is?  Well I have to tell you something, knowing what your God-created identity is leads to a level of peace in your life that you won’t find any other way.  So yes Jesus told you to grow up, but he is also unwrapping for you something extremely important.  Because when you begin to walk in your God-created identity you will live differently.  You live with peace in your life.  You live as Jesus lived.

So let’s look at Jesus’ time on this Earth.  You know Jesus made such big and powerful statements.  He was a leader.  He was so strong.  He was so confident in who he was.  He seemed to be able to stand up and do the opposite of what the entire world was saying should be done.  He was challenging and entire religious system that had been in place for a long time.  He was offending people, powerful people!  He was disappointing people.  Yet he continues on and He literally changes the world.  He just seems so confident, and just so able to stand tall in what He knows to be right.  He is willing to say and do what needs to be said and done regardless of what people think.  He is so focused on what He has come to do.  So confident in WHO He is that public opinion has no power or hold on his life.  Physical pain and discomfort don’t sway him one degree off of His mission.  In so many ways there was just nothing anyone or anything on this Earth could do to distract or deter Him from what He was going to do.   No one and nothing could stop Him.  How is that possible?  How did He do it?  How can He be so brave and focused and so willing to challenge and offend?  I mean think about this even his own disciples had an idea of what the Savior was supposed to be and He didn’t bow to anyone’s expectations of what He should be.  He moved forward regardless of what the world said and He did so without even a flinch.  So how does He do it?  How in the middle of all the chaos surrounding him…the confrontations, the needs of people, the expectations of others, and the opinions all around him was He able to have so much peace?  Well this is the key for Jesus and it is for you and I as well.  Jesus lived out His God-created identity.

For many of us we struggle to stay focused.  We get pulled around by what people think.  We get distracted from what we are doing by the business of life, by the opinions and hurts of others.  We compromise and rationalize our way off mission because we live in a world that is doing everything in its power to keep you from what Jesus challenged you to do in Matthew 5…live out your God-created identity.  You know it’s hard for us to imagine living with the kind of focus and strength and peace that Jesus had and I will tell you why that is.  It’s because what defines who Jesus is and what defines who we are end up being very different things.  Now they don’t have to be…but unfortunately a lot of the time they are.  We walk through the chaos of life with people who hurt us.  There is clutter and stress and we lose sight of the one thing that can change our lives.  It’s interesting to me how hard we work to find inner peace.  We buy books.  We go on vacations.  We try all kinds of things from Yoga to medications and we just can’t seem to find it.  We have people much smarter than me out there writing books and doing lectures and studies on how to achieve inner peace, and here’s what is really interesting.  We never find it in any of these remedies.  We try and try and at times we find happy moments but we never find that true inner peace in any of those things from books, to teachings, to studies, to medications to vacations because the peace we are after is in only found in one place.  So today, I’m going to give you the secret to true peace in our lives, I know you are on the edge of your seats now!

What’s interesting is it’s not a new idea.  It’s not something you haven’t heard before.  True inner peace is found in understanding, and knowing deep in our heartsthis one simple statement.

God loves you.

I know, I know you can’t believe I would be this simple right?  Well it’s funny how we struggle to find peace.  We feel torn apart by life, wounded by people, and for most of us we feel measured by so many different measuring sticks and we always seem to come up short.  It’s amazing to me how hard we work to find peace in our lives, we are all looking for the secret to life, like there is a Holy Grail out there for us to find and then life will make sense, but until then our homes are falling apart, our relationships are a mess, our finances are upside down as we work to impress the world.  We feel pulled a thousand directions and none of it is giving us peace we are looking for and here is what is really interesting, while all that is going on, Jesus has given you the key to life.  He is modeling it for you and if you could get past him telling you to “grow up” in Matthew 5 he tells you how to do it.  He tells you to live out your God-created identity!  We must know what our identity is, and if you think about it, he told you that in the same scripture as well…let’s look at it one more time…

Matthew 5:48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.  MSG

We are kingdom subjects.  We are royalty.  We are loved by God.  That is who we are.  When we can center on this idea that we are God’s children, loved by Him, everything changes.  It brings a peace to our lives that can’t be found any other way.  We are loved by God.  I know, I know it can’t be that simple, but the reality is that those three little words make an enormous difference.  And here is the reality, it is just so hard to see it.  We live in a broken and busted up world and in all the hurts, all the clutter and all the sin it is so hard to see the truth in the middle of all the enemy throws our way…all of the lies, hurts and accusations.  We must see through the lens of truth to find peace in our lives and that truth and our reality is this.  God loves you.  That is what must define us.  This is where our identity is found.  This is who you are, you are one loved by God.  It’s all through scripture…

1 John 3:1 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it — we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to. 2 But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him — and in seeing him, become like him. MSG

We are children of God, we are loved.  I love how it is written here…we are God’s children and by the way it will not look right to the masses!  Just like Jesus lived right, they didn’t get Him, they won’t get you!  So we must understand this simple truth…God loves us.  We are God’s children, son’s and daughter of the King.  We are royalty…Kingdom subjects.

This is where peace is found.  This is what your enemy never wants you to wrap your mind around.  So many of people spend their whole lives searching for the secret to inner peace and the bummer is they will never find it until they center their lives around God’s love for them.  You see this is something that Jesus knew.  This is woven into who he was.  He knew very clearly who He was and who He was not.  Because of this, Jesus had more confidence to lead, more focus and strength to stay on mission, this is why He is able to have peace in the midst of the chaos that is the mission of Christ.  Jesus found his identity in God’s love for Him!  I want to look at where Jesus’ ministry began because in it we can see a couple of really cool things.  We see who God told Him he was and we also see Satan try to trick and tempt Jesus with 3 things that he will use on all of us.  Jesus had strength, peace, focus and confidence and I want you to see the source of that because you can have it too!  So we are really looking at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  Which really starts with His baptism by his cousin John the Baptist and then leads him out into the desert to be tempted by Satan himself.  There’s a big lesson for us in all of it!  God speaks, and Satan tries to tempt Jesus away from understanding who He really is using three tactics that He still uses today.  So John baptizes Jesus and this happens…

Matthew 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  NIV

God speaks and the message is clear.  You are lovable.  You are good.  What an awesome moment, and do you notice that God is pleased with His son and Jesus hasn’t done anything yet?  God does not love Him because of anything Jesus could do for Him.  So this love is at the very center of Jesus…it is who He is to his core and it should be for all of us!  This is what we work so hard with you to see here at MRC!  God’s love is so good and it becomes the motivation for all things and it is the source of our true identity.  We are God’s treasure.  We are loved by Him.  Jesus hears this message and He gets it.  We must too!  Now here’s the deal we have an enemy and He comes at us doing everything He can to keep us from centering on that one fact!  Satan knows that his best way of keeping you from God, and walking in relationship with God is by blinding you from this truth that God loves you, that you are actually lovable.  He never wants you realizing your true identity is that you are loved by God.  He does this through lies, through hurts, and by doing his best to send his own message which is that you will never be worthy of God’s love.  You will never be good enough.  So right after Jesus baptism he heads to the desert and Satan himself comes and tempts him in the desert and he uses three powerful temptations that we need to see because he uses them on us too.  When we accept them we can never find the kind of peace that we could have if we could simply center on God’s love for us.  So I’m going to read the whole story and I want you to see the three schemes here…

  • Scheme 1-Performance (I am what I do)
  • Scheme 2-Possessions (I am what I have…or don’t have)
  • Scheme 3-Popularity (I am what others think I am)

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.   7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. NIV

So this is the Temptation of Christ and while you and I aren’t starving in the desert and being tempted as Jesus was face to face with Satan himself.  Our enemy uses these three schemes on us too.

Scheme 1- Performance (I am what I do)  vs3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

So remember Jesus has done nothing except been baptized by his cousin John.  He is now starving in the desert.  He hasn’t really accomplished anything for God in these first 30 years he has been around.  His ministry hasn’t started yet.  He is hungry and could accomplish something here at a time when he hasn’t really done anything for the world yet right?  I mean nobody believes that He is the son of God.  Nobody seems to get Him…and He hasn’t DONE anything yet.  See so many of us find our self-worth in what we have done or accomplished right?  We live in a world that wants to know what we have achieved.  Doesn’t it seem like in general the world wants to know what it is that we do?  Most people consider themselves a success if we are achieving…if we are doing something.  Whether that’s at work or home or in our hobbies or church or relationships.  When we don’t feel like we are doing something useful we can try harder, work harder, volunteer more…or we just feel like less.  But Jesus knows something.  He is loved by God because long before Jesus ever did anything for God, God let everyone know that He loves Him.  Many of us think, “I am what I do.”  That is a very dangerous thing because you and I aren’t perfect, we will mess up and then our identity crumbles.  Can you see the work of the enemy here?  Our hope is finding our identity in God’s love for us not on any of our accomplishments…this is why we so often fall back on this verse…

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

It isn’t about what we do, it’s about what God does.  God will take care of Jesus, He doesn’t need to play God and perform a miracle here.  He knows the truth.  He is loved by God and that is given not earned.

Scheme 2-Possessions (I am what I have…or don’t have) vs5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.   7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Basically the devil is saying to Him…Look around you!  You have nothing.  I can give you everything on this Earth!  Everyone has more than you!  This is a tough temptation for us people isn’t it?  It’s a major play on a lot of different emotions here.  First of all as people, we like having nice things right?  We also can have a lot of fear and insecurities in the area of money, wealth, and stuff…and Satan isn’t playing around with Jesus…and he doesn’t with you and I either.  We live in a world that measures success by what we own.  We compare, we contrast…we know who is driving what car, and who is wearing what…and who lives where, and who has what.  Well we say we don’t care, but we know!  There is so much competition here.  Who has the most money, the most stuff, the biggest home.  Often our sense of self ends up tied to these types of things…and when we start to wrap our identity around things, we can really get ourselves into trouble because all of those things are temporary not eternal, and when they go away it can destroy you if that is where you find your idea of who you are.  Jesus doesn’t fall for this and look at how He responds to the devil…

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ NIV

Interesting that Jesus would later say things like this…

Mark 8:36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? NIV

Jesus’ identity isn’t wrapped up in the bright shiny things of this world.  It isn’t found in what he does and it isn’t found in what he has or doesn’t have.  His idea of who He is centers around the understanding that God loves Him.

Scheme 3-Popularity (I am what others think I am)  So the last temptation is a tough one, and it’s a play on how other’s view us, or what we often look at as people pleasing.

vs9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.”

So the devil even quotes some scripture and is tempting Him to test God.  Jump off the temple here in Jerusalem.  The angels will come to you and protect you….but you know what, this is a very crowded area.  People will all see it and know that you are God.  That you are a big deal!  Remember at this point nobody really thinks all that much of Jesus, he is basically unknown.  Satan is tempting Him to push God into a miracle that would expose Him as God in skin.  It’s a play on how he is viewed by others.  Most of can say we would love for others to recognize us, respect us, and think a lot of us.  We feel good when people do.  We feel bad when people don’t.  I talk to you about this a lot.  This is such a dangerous thing.  You will never please everyone.  People are imperfect, they let you down from time to time.  They make mistakes…and you simply can’t control how another imperfect person views you…trying to just leads to pain.  Trust me.  True freedom comes when we no longer need to be special in other peoples eyes because we know we are lovable and we know we are good, because God views us this way.  Bowing to people pleasing is a very dangerous thing.  Jesus isn’t tempted to look important because he is grounded in who He is.  Who He is, is one loved by God.  So no one else or their view of him can control him.

So in the temptation of Christ we see three major schemes or lies that the devil himself presented to Jesus…and Jesus withstands all three.  He is able to withstand these attacks because He knows who He is…a child of God.  A kingdom subject.  He is lovable.  He is good and He knows He is loved by God.  You know the enemy will come after you the same way.  With these three attacks and countless others…all of the lies and schemes of your enemy are really trying to get you to lose focus off of this one simple truth.  That God loves you.  This is what it’s all about, taken your true identity away from you, and hoping that he can lie enough to you that you agree that you aren’t who God says you are.  So you might be thinking…well it would be easy for Jesus to know He is loved.  He is God in skin!   He is God’s one and only son.  He is sinless…and Sam if you only knew all that I have done you would understand why I would struggle to believe God could love me.  Well here’s the deal.  Because of Jesus and what He did for you and me on the cross.  Your past sins, your present sins, and your screw ups coming down the road don’t exist to God.  Because of Jesus sacrifice on the cross, when God looks at you, all He sees is the very righteousness of God.  You are good.  You are redeemed.  You have been set free from all the mess that you were and are.  All God sees when He looks at you is Jesus!  This is the gospel message…and if you don’t know just how loved you are.  If you are still focused on the fact that you are unlovable for a big list of reasons…then you don’t grasp the Gospel.

2 Corinthians 5:14Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. 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. Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! 18 All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. 19 God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. 20 We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. 21 How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. (MSG)

When we wrap our minds around this idea…we live differently.  We don’t have to wallow in self pity.  We don’t have to be slaves to what people think about us.  We don’t have to be slaves to our sin, or what we have or don’t have, and we don’t have to find our identity in what we do or don’t do.  Our identity is found in this one simple fact.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV

When we center on this one idea, that because of what Jesus did for me on the cross I am redeemed.  Couldn’t earn it and certainly don’t deserve it…but God did it for me anyway because He loves me that much.  Well we walk then in a different level of peace, we walk confident in who we are because who we are is one loved by God…which by the way, leads to a heart full of Gratitude.