So a couple of weeks ago we started a brand new series looking at the big question that should be in the front of your minds all through the Christmas season…Why did Jesus come?  If you remember week one I kicked off this series really jumping into some of the scripture that has really been impacting my heart lately and I told you that because Jesus came you and I can actually live bold and free lives.  We don’t have to live our lives feeling tired and stuck, we can live bold and free!  What really impacted me through that is this idea that all of that boldness, all of that freedom comes through Jesus.  As his love enters into us, and begins to come out of us everything changes.  We become untouchable in a difficult world of pain and hurt and issues and drama, why?  It’s because the love of Christ over powers all the issues we have.  What a beautiful thought and if you think about it…we spent two weeks looking at this one idea.  That as we stay in relationship with Jesus the love of God grows in us and the more connected to Him we are the more that love comes out of us.  That real love in us and flowing out of us empowers us to live lives that are bold and free.  All of it centers on Jesus and His love and from that pure relationship comes a life that is so opposite of where most people are, no longer tired and stuck but now bold and free through the love of Jesus.  You know what, that all sounds pretty simple though doesn’t it?

Then Ken was up here last week and he really got to the core of everything we are as a church.  Ken explained to you the thing that all of MRC and frankly what all of the church as a whole should be centered on…did you pick up on that?  The reality is that the mission of Christ is the point of all of this!  This means that as we experience God’s love through Jesus and His amazing grace, you know, that free gift that God so loving gave us in Jesus, we begin helping others find the same love, grace, redemption and salvation that we have found in Jesus!  That’s it!  Remember this from last week?  The greatest invitation you will ever have is to follow Christ and help find and restore the lost.  That invitation, will radically change your life.  This is what it’s all about, and as we engage into this mission of helping those far from God find God…we find so much more than we could ever dream.  So Ken showed us the key to why Jesus came…

Luke 19:9 “Jesus said, 10 For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.” MSG

Jesus has invited us into this very specific mission.  When we join Him in it we find more than we could ever have imagined.  We find that whole life to the full thing that I’m always bringing up.  We find passion and meaning and purpose and focus and it all comes from jumping in and helping others find what you have found in Jesus!  Jesus came to find and restore the lost and we get to join Him in that work.  That is the greatest invitation you could ever have and it will change your life if you jump into it…but if you think about it most of us think Christianity is full of complexities and that the church is built on so many other things, so there should be more to it than that right?  I want you to think about this, it isn’t super complex, it isn’t super hard to understand, it all sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?

So we can live bold and free lives by connecting to Jesus and living out His command which is to love God, and love others.  We can have passion and meaning and purpose by accepting the invitation to help Jesus find and restore the lost and we have said today, both of these things don’t sound all that complicated.  Now I need you to hear me, I am not saying that there won’t be hardship, challenges and adversity in your life if you live bold and free and serving others.  It’s actually very challenging to jump into the Jesus mission…what I am saying is that I literally just gave you the key to life and life to the full and I did it in two sentences.  How is that possible?  Christianity is supposed to be super complex and interwoven with all kinds of rules and complexities right?  This is the issue that I really want you to understand, we have taken something that is so true, and so beautiful and so simple and we people have made it hard.  So today we look at this thought.  Why did Jesus come?  Well, Jesus came to this Earth and made things simple.  Because of Him Christianity, all this religiosity just doesn’t have to be so complicated.  Now, this doesn’t mean life is simple, this isn’t a prosperity gospel thing…life is and will be hard.  But Christianity doesn’t have to be so complex and difficult to decipher.  So why is it so hard for so many of us?  Well it’s because we people, we make it hard.  So many of us are looking for life and life to the full, and we just can’t find it.  We search and search and search for the answers to all of the difficulties of life and all the while Jesus would say, “I’m right here!”  So many of us are searching for meaning and purpose and are wondering what God’s plan is for our lives…and Jesus says, “Here it is!” “Help me expand my kingdom!”  So many of us are trying to explore and figure out all the little intricacies and nuances of religion, all of which can tie us in knots.  And what did Jesus say about all of that?

Matthew 22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  NIV

So Jesus takes all of the complexity and all of the challenges in all of the rules and religiosity and says here’s what I want you to do love God and love others.  If we do that everything else will fall into place and again going back to week one of this series what do we see?  Love at the very center as our love of God grows, our love for others will grow and all the other stuff will fall into place…but we make it so much harder than that.  I mean that can’t be right, can it?  I mean it sounds so…so…simple?  Do you see it? Here’s the thing, because Jesus came to this Earth, it doesn’t have to be so complicated…He simplified it all. 

So let’s think back to Ken’s talk last week for a moment.  MRC was founded on the mission of Christ.  The whole purpose of the church is to find and restore the lost.  We see it in scripture.  It’s very clearly written in the Gospels.  We know it could be the key to life and life to the full.  We have seen it change lives in a major way.  Think about engaging a church that takes all the barriers, all the extra distractions away, all the busy religious things away and gives you the mission that Jesus invited us all onto!  Here’s what is really interesting, this mission isn’t something Ken just made up one day.  It’s what Jesus invited us all into…but even as we talk about it, it seems really different from what we expect a church to look like.  So we see this message in scripture and we work hard here at MRC to live it out.  It is so simple.  It is so clear.  But you know what.  We have seen a lot of people hear the message and walk away.  And to be very honest, there have been a lot of hurts along the way.  Amazing isn’t it?  You would think that by simply living out the Gospel message people would flock to a place that is stripping away religion and trying to live out what Scripture literally tells us to do.  So why the push back?  Why is it so hard for people to see what Jesus so clearly asks us to engage into?  Well that is what I really want to show you today, we people make things so much more complicated than they have to be.  I really believe this is why Jesus words are so hard to understand here, but are just so key.

Matthew 10:39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me. MSG

So Jesus says love God and love others.  Jesus says go and help others experience God’s love.  Jesus says hey it’s not about you…so we come to a church that simply echoes Jesus’ words, “it’s not about you.” We invite everyone who comes here to help us love God and love others and serve.  And what happens?  We wonder how we could ever grow while serving at a church that serves others.  So we say the words, it’s about loving God and loving others, and we tell people we go to a church that’s motto is “It’s not about you.”  Yet even as we say it, we are still wondering what’s in it for me?  Jesus says if our first concern is to look after ourselves this is exactly how we will feel…wondering when we will find ourselves!  It’s so interesting isn’t it?  So many people come, hear this message, even get excited for a while about it, and eventually leave disappointed.  Do you see it?  They make it harder than it is.  They leave thinking it can’t be that simple can it?  It has to be harder than this.  How can I grow serving?  How can I grow in a place that takes the focus off of me?  Yes, I know Jesus said if I forget about myself and look to Him I will find myself and Him…but that makes no sense right?  Well here’s the thing, it isn’t harder than this because Jesus came and Jesus won and Jesus simplifies, and what was complicated before Jesus doesn’t have to be complicated anymore.  It’s us people, we make it complicated and that happens through the spirit of religion, which causes so many problems…and I really want to get into this deeper today.  Jesus comes to simplify what religion makes so complicated.   Remember, at the very center of all we believe is Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb.  Religion has one goal to take away Jesus and the magnitude of what he did for us on the cross.  Religion always complicates what Jesus makes so simple.

You know I have been around church my whole life which has been a total honor, my parents found Jesus and were inspired by the mission of Christ.  So it’s all I ever knew.  We found grace and love and mercy and we were going to help everyone around us experience that too!  This is what I grew up understanding as the most incredible news possible.  I through the love of God through Jesus have everything and more and now I can help others experience that!  This was all I knew growing up.  I remember my father coming to take over Mechanicsburg BIC in the early 80’s and here’s what we were coming to do, we were coming to bring Jesus to the entire community!  We were bringing the love of Jesus to all we came in contact with.  Everything I had been told about Christianity was really wrapped up in this idea that Paul explains so well here…

2 Corinthians 5:16 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. 17 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

It was my family’s life mission to help other people understand this simple, clear truth and we were so excited to bring that to people in Mechanicsburg.  But as clear as it seemed to be, and even as a boy it felt so simple…man did it get complicated really quickly.  So we read in scripture that we won’t evaluate people for how they look (vs 16) and then I watched people leave the church over things like blue jeans, or my father not wearing nice enough suits to preach in (which we didn’t have the money for by the way) we saw people leave angry because we asked them to love those in their community, and to help others experience this love because we are Christ’s representatives (vs 20) no longer judged because of Jesus (vs 21) so we can forgive (vs 19) and love as He loves us enough to send Jesus to do what we could never do! (vs 21) So we came to Mechanicsburg to a church full of Christians and brought the Jesus mission to them, and it was a mess and frankly it was a mess that we never really saw coming and even as a boy, I just felt like this whole Christian life was so much easier than we were making it.  Our family wasn’t prepared for that and we took a big emotional hit as people pushed back on us and left over parking spaces, clothing, head coverings and worse and I was often left wondering why something that Jesus seemed to come to simplify ended up looking so complicated and confusing…well I see it now.  It was the spirit of religion taking the focus off of Jesus and what He does and onto everything and anything else.  It’s amazing spending 40 years around the church now.  I have watched amazing leaders stand on a stage and point to Jesus, show people Jesus, challenge people to engage Jesus. Only to watch those people run to, focus on, and engage into anything and everything but Jesus.  All of these things have torn me up over the years and I always felt so confused…because it seemed so much easier than we made it.  Remember religion complicates what Jesus came to simplify.

Here’s what is interesting though.  If you read about Jesus’ time on Earth he really got a lot of push back from the “church people” of his time so there is no reason to think that we wouldn’t either.  In some ways I think it’s easy to think about how awful those “church people” of Jesus time (the religious scholar and leaders of the time) really were but I want you to think about this.  They had lived their entire lives in a religious system.  It was full of rules and regulations.  When I say it was full of things for them to do, it was absolutely packed with systems, and rituals, and ways to go about things.  These religious leaders spent their lives immersed in the law code.  There were literally over 600 laws to know and follow from the Old Testament times of Moses.  There were systems, and rituals which were all put in place by God as a way to stay in contact with us, even while sin was still an issue.  You see life was supposed to be us in pure in relationship with God…and it was for all of about 3 chapters of our Bible but then sin entered the scene and because of sin our relationship with God had to have some distance to it.  Now it was full of rituals, only priests could come to God for all of us with animal sacrifices, which was a whole thing.  This was the reality of the religious people of the time, even while Jesus walked the Earth.  It was all they knew, law, religious ritual…nothing was personal with the sin problem still unsolved.  Which we know Jesus took care of later.  Then all of a sudden Jesus comes and is really challenging all they stood for, and it had to be hard for them to wrap their minds around.  He was challenging everything they really stood for.  Paul would later describe what Jesus did this way and I love this…

Romans 7:4 So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. MSG

Here’s an easy translation of that, Jesus took something religion made so complicated and made it so simple.  So Jesus really drove these guys crazy pushing in on them about all they believe in and all they had ever known.  He pushed in on them so much that these religious leaders who were literally paid to identify the Savior of the Universe when he arrived couldn’t see Him for who He was and eventually kill him!  What’s amazing is that Jesus was simplifying everything that was so complex but it comes across as so confusing…because we have our own preset idea of why things should be a certain way.  So Jesus comes in with a message of amazing news and is met with push back by the religious people of his time.  My family comes to Mechanicsburg and who then gives my father the hardest time?  People who were established in the church who knew the way things should look.  Ken Landis comes to Dillsburg with a simple message and the idea of being a church on mission and is he celebrated?  No!  And who was it that gives him the hardest time?  Its people inside the church who already know what they think it should look like!  Do you see it?  When you represent Jesus and stand for his mission you are constantly pushing against everyone’s preset idea of what church should be.  It’s interesting isn’t it…the simple Jesus message to those in the church who have heard the Jesus message their whole lives is met with push back and disappointment!  How can that be?  Well, it’s because religion complicates what Jesus simplifies.  Listen to me, these aren’t bad people that push back…but they push back because they have a preset notion of what things should be which is a wall that is hard for some to break through and some never do.  If you ask my dad back in the day as he walked through all the hardship, emotional battles, and personal attacks he would tell you this.  “I just wanted to help people find Jesus and experience that love and grace that I have.  All I asked people to do is live out what Jesus told us to live out.”  You know what as Ken shared some of his hardships last week with you, which is something that isn’t easy to do but was important for us to hear, I can tell you that I was often behind the scenes with him in those moments and he would often say the exact same thing that my father would say.  “I just wanted to share Jesus’ love with people so they could go share this amazing good news with others.”  Here’s the thing, the message is simple.  Jesus took all the complexity out of religion, he took it all down to the tomb and left it there.  Now we are to focus on loving God and loving others, and we just can’t seem to let it be that simple.  Again Jesus came to tear these walls down, walls that some of us have concreted into our lives.  Jesus came to take something we make so complicated, and make it simple.

As I was preparing this message I kept thinking of this guy in scripture who had an encounter with Jesus.  I would say it’s one of my favorite moments that Jesus has with someone.  Here’s what you are going to see in this story, you are going to see a really good guy do what we still do to this day.  He just over complicates things.  Let’s check this out…

Mark 10:17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  NIV

I love this story and I want you to see a couple of things about this story that are such a big deal.  If you have been around church any length of time you have hear this story before, and I think a lot people hear this and think it’s a story explaining why Christians shouldn’t have money and that isn’t it.  This is not Jesus saying that you shouldn’t have money, this is all about heart condition not the condition of someone’s bank account.  Why is it hard for a rich man to go to heaven?  Again it’s because we people complicate something that Jesus simplifies.  Money is a huge blocker to us submitting fully to God.  Which is why we have been talking to you so much about money lately but that is a whole other talk for another day.

I want you to see something extremely important as we look at this story, this young man is a good person.  This guy follows all the rules.  He is disciplined, responsible, successful…this is the guy you want your daughter dating.  He follows all the rules.  He is living each day focused on and following the commandments.  So he is doing everything right.  And here’s what is so interesting, something is still missing in his life.  He is working really hard at doing everything asked of him and life is still empty how do I know this?  Because he is still searching for something and finally he walks up to Jesus…THE SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE, the only one who can do anything for him and asks the single worst question you could probably ever ask Jesus.  This is amazing and I think it had to leave Jesus just hurting for this poor guy.  Remember the question he asks?

“Good teacher, what must I DO to inherit eternal life?”

This is an incredible moment that shows us how complicated we make things, frankly it shows how the spirit of religion twist things up for us.  Here is a very good young man who loves God.  He is doing his best to follow all the rules and he comes face to face with Jesus Christ, who is on the Earth to do the very thing for this young man that he wants!  But the guy simply can’t see it.  He is so caught up in what he needs to do that he can’t see what is happening literally right in front of him.   He is making things so much harder than they need to be, while standing in front of Jesus, the only way to get what he is looking for.  I love how Jesus respond’s to him.  Jesus reveals this man’s heart by saying, “Hey man, you know the commandments just keep them!”  I think this young man is excited to hear this because he is keeping all the rules!  Then Jesus exposes the true issues inside this man’s heart and the young man leaves devastated.  Remember this scripture that many who feel pretty good about how pure and holy we are tend to forget?  Any irony in this?

Romans 3:23 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

Jesus is showing him there is still sin in him, just as there is in all of us which is why he needs Jesus!  But the guy just can’t see it.  This story isn’t about rich people not being allowed into heaven, this story isn’t about how hard it is to get into heaven.  It is actually Jesus revealing that we need Him and Him alone to get what we want!  This is Jesus saying, “You are doing so well young man, could you simply take all that stuff you are holding onto and simplify your life?”  You don’t have to build up wealth, what you need to do is love God, and love others…which would allow you to follow Jesus.  Translation: Jesus is saying, “You are making things so much harder than they have to be!”  This young man is doing everything right in his mind.  He is following the commandments.  He is making lots of money and is probably very successful in life.  I believe that he loves God and wants to do what is right but here is the problem.  He is completely focused on himself and what he needs to do to earn his own salvation.  Jesus simply exposes a sin in his life and he is leaves disappointed.  He is looking for the right hoop to jump through and Jesus is saying, there are no more hoops just simplify your life to loving God, and loving others…then you can follow me.  Again Jesus didn’t come to make things more complicated he came to simplify what we seem to over complicate, until we love God, and love others…it will always be more complicated than it has to be.  It is so interesting, we read stories about guys like this that just simply miss Jesus and we can be amazed by his inability to understand where salvation is found…but we do the same thing.  We hear the Jesus message and we are amazed at the gift it can be in our lives…and then we take something so beautiful, so freeing and we make it so much harder than it has to be.  Remember when Jesus says love God, and love others he is helping you see that your life in Him doesn’t have to be so complicated.  Jesus came to simplify what we people have made so complicated.  Are you struggling with Christianity or your what you believe in?  Here’s where you should start…take all the stuff that is jamming you up and remember this…love God and love others.  Remember Jesus took all the tough stuff down into a tomb for you and I and left it there.  Remember this the reason you are probably struggling is that you can get in your own way, which is why Jesus said crazy things like the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself.  We over complicate something that Jesus came to make so simple.  Jesus took care of everything we could not.  That should be a freeing thought today.

Remember religion complicates what Jesus came to this Earth to simplify.