So last week we started a big series that is going to take us all the way to Easter, the series is called “Different.”  And the whole idea is that we are going to make a commitment to being different in 2018 and beyond and if you think about it, what we are really doing is looking to see you build a relationship with Jesus that leads to actual change in your life.  So the idea of being different, has everything to do with seeing your life change as you encounter Jesus in a real way.  This is a really big deal to us here at MRC, life change matters to us and I will tell you why.  It’s because everything the Bible teaches, everything we believe is that a life in Christ is more than just words on a page and doing church services on Sunday morning…everything we believe should be changing us from the inside out, and when it is doing that…it’s real and we like the real thing here at MRC.  If it isn’t real then this whole Sunday morning thing really is just a waste of time, and we don’t want that for you, or for us either!  We want this to be real, and pray daily that you would be encountering Jesus in a real way!  So this series is about making a commitment to being different in 2018 which is a really big deal and a pretty cool way to launch this new church here in Gettysburg!

Now it’s pretty popular this time of year for all of us to make promises for a better 2018 or life right?  We call them our New Year’s Resolutions which many of us have a tradition of making and announcing to the world around New Years.  But frankly, by now (the third Sunday of this new year) a lot of the very passionate promises we made for a better year whether it’s to lose weight, or read more, or whatever it was for you…they really start to fizzle out, and let’s just say the passion or energy we had for that promise can fade away the further we get away from January 1st.  Well we do not want that for you when it comes to this commitment to being different in 2018.  So early on in this series, we need to look at some real keys to making this more than just another promise that goes unfulfilled this year!  Much like our New Year’s Resolutions we start by making the promise or the commitment to be different, but then we need a couple of foundational things in our lives so that we can really see true, and positive life change moving forward.  I actually started this series last week here with our launch team and we talked about the first real foundational step that is needed if we want to actually be different in 2018 and beyond.   The first step is a really cheery one, but it is so, so important…the first foundational step to true life change is to be broken before God.  I know, that doesn’t sound really fun at all does it?  But as rough as it sounds, it’s also really important.

So what does it mean to be broken?  It means that we get to a place in our lives where we understand our deep need of Jesus in our lives.  This is so important.  We need to get to the place where we realize just how much we need God.  Think about this, without true brokenness (which is our understanding that we need God) I would never really see the need to change.  If I want to be different, I need to understand that I need God in my life, without understanding my need of Him, why would I ever do anything different right?  Jesus says this in Matthew 5 as part of his famous Sermon on the Mount…

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

This is so important. When we are broken we understand just how much we need God and we are so blessed to walk through life in that kind of understanding.  This is pretty rare in our culture, to see people get to a spot where they are actually broken before God.  But it’s that brokenness that becomes a true catalyst of life change.  Check this out in Psalms…

Psalms 51:16 Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. 17 I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. MSG

How special are those words?  God isn’t after perfect performances, or us going through the motions of life and religion.  God is after our hearts, and when our hearts are pure, meaning there is no pride…well then God can shape and mold us.  This is why the first real step towards change is brokenness, because without understanding our need of God, we would never change?

There is a beautiful story in scripture of an encounter Jesus has with two very different people while having lunch one day.  In this story we can really see a huge contrast between the two people who are hanging out with Jesus.  One person is broken, and the other is not.  So in this story we see that one person going to leave this encounter with Jesus different, the other…not so much.  You know what is amazing to me about these people in the story and frankly in all of the stories where we see Jesus seem to run into confrontations is who he is constantly in confrontation with!  It may not be who you think he would be fighting with.  He often ends up butting heads with a specific group of people called the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the teachers of the law.  Do you know who those people were?  They were actually the church leaders of that time which I find amazing.  These are literally men who were trained and paid to identify the Savior of the Universe when He arrived on this Earth and here Jesus is, now standing before them, and they just can’t accept who He is!  It’s amazing, this gets so bad that they eventually end up killing Him!  Jesus is constantly trying to help people see just how much they need saving.  Jesus is constantly loving on people in need of help which drove these men nuts.  He also tries to help them see their own sin and the fact that they actually need a savior too, which is not easy for them to do, because there is no brokenness…remember being broken is very important.  Without it, why would I ever need to change?  Well that’s where these men were…and I like to point this out, because it’s easy to think these guys were awful human beings…I mean they do kill Christ at one point, but I want you to see this.  They loved God.  These guys were good people, doing good things.  They memorized large chunks of the Bible.  They worked hard for the church.  They gave money and time to the church of that day.  They were doing a lot of good things, but in all that good things they were doing, their hearts are not open to Jesus.  This is such an important thing to see, that these weren’t bad people.  They were doing what they believed to be right, it’s just that in all their religious activity, and in all there good deeds they can’t see their own need of a Savior!  They were so caught up in pride, and comfort and success in their own eyes that they are completely missing Jesus who they were trained to identify while He is standing right in front of them!  This shows just how important brokenness is!  Remember what David said earlier right?

Psalms 51:16 Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. 17 I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.  Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. MSG

So time and time again we see Jesus in different confrontations with the religious leaders of that time, he is constantly confronting them, and loving on those far from God, which drove these religious leaders nuts.  So here’s where we start today, I want us to look at this beautiful story and I want you to see this, the first step of being truly different is understanding just how much we need God in our lives.  We must be broken.  We will see two very different hearts around Jesus here, one with a future of life change, and the other very hard hearted, and with no change in the future.  I love this story, I shared it with the team last week, and want you to see this, and what is really cool is that right at the end of this story, we will actually get our first glimpse of the second foundational step to be different as well.  So with that thought in your minds, let’s look at this beautiful story of two very different hearts around Jesus…

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat, 37 a woman of the streets-a prostitute-heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume. 38 Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them. 39 When Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!” 40 Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.””All right, Teacher,” Simon replied, “go ahead.” 41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people-$5,000 to one and $500 to the other. 42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?” 43 “I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered. “Correct,” Jesus agreed. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in. 46 You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume. 47 Therefore her sins-and they are many-are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then the men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?” 50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” TLB

There are two very different people here in this story with Jesus aren’t there?  One a prostitute who is truly broken before Jesus.  Weeping humbly before the Savior of the Universe.  She understands her need of Jesus.  Yet the other in the room isn’t seeing a need of Jesus but a hardness towards the woman, as he and the others watching sit in disdain and judgment with no real understanding of their own sin.  Do you see it?  This woman is going to be different, there is actual life change in her future because of this heart shattered encounter with Jesus, the Pharisee…not so much.  We simply can’t change or grow if we don’t see any issues or needs to do so!  Now right at the very end of this story I want you to see what Jesus says to this woman…

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:50 TLB

This is such a big deal, what was it that Jesus says saved her?  It was her faith, her belief in who He was that allowed her to be changed here.  This is the second thing we need to be different, its faith.  Faith is really the foundation to everything spiritual.  This is how the Bible actually defines faith…

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  NIV

Check out that same verse in the Message version as I think it shows just how essential faith is…

Hebrews 11:1 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. MSG

Faith is believing and trusting in something we can’t see, and really is the foundation of everything!  It is the very foundation of all things spiritual and let’s be real here…without faith there would be no change.  Think about the woman who came to Jesus broken, it was her faith that saved her.  She believed in Him and because of that she is saved.  When we have faith in God and what He did our lives can be transformed.  We can be different.  Without faith, it just won’t happen.  Remember in the end it’s that belief in Jesus that is actually all we need to do to find salvation and eternal life!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV

So yeah, faith is a really big deal.  It is an essential step towards life change, towards our own healing, towards peace and rest for our souls and probably most importantly it’s the key to our own salvation but you know what, there is something else.  Faith is very important to us because life isn’t easy.  Wait, I thought if I went to church and asked Jesus into my life, that would mean that everything would go perfectly well for me after that?  Uh…no, that isn’t how it works.  Life isn’t easy and as a follower of Jesus you will need faith because of how hard life can actually be.  I think this can be a major set up for people who come to find God, especially early on in their walk with Him.  They think life lets up on you because God is part of it, and you need to know that just isn’t true.  Scripture never lays that out for you, and frankly it won’t be your life experience…tough times will come and when they do how you respond will matter.  Will you get mad at God, or will you grow from the experience?  I wish I could tell you that the moment you walk into MRC and find God, that life will just get easier but I can’t responsibly do that.  Life is not easy.  Some go to church and find God and assume this means they will never experience adversity ever again…that just isn’t reality.  Life will keep happening, tough times will come…and how we respond matters greatly.  Faith is so important because life is messy.  Ok, so I’m going to now read for you a scripture that is so important, but if I’m going to be transparent with you, it is the last thing anybody including myself wants to hear when walking through a difficult time.  I know for me personally when I’m in a very tough moment in life, which I know is shocking to you because I’m a Pastor and don’t have tough times…but if I wasn’t a Pastor and did have tough times (LOL) the last thing I ever want to hear in that moment is this specific scripture…but it is so important.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  NIV

I don’t know about you but in my difficult moments when I’m facing a trial in my own life, I don’t really need someone coming up to me and telling me that I should consider it pure joy that I’m in a difficult spot or walking through pain or stress or adversity in my life!  But I have to tell you something this is such an important thing for us to look at and see.  Scripture is very clear difficult times are coming.  The reality of life is that life is messy.  There will be painful moments, and how we respond to these moments matters.  What we are actually seeing here is that James is telling us that we can actually be better for the difficult moments of life.  Our faith can not only sustain us but it can actually grow through these times.  It’s through the difficult moments of life that we grow up and mature, but make no mistake, in those moments there can be and most likely will be a big time need for faith because doubt can creep in.  As a follower of Christ, you will experience trials, and in those tough times you may question your faith.  How does it hit you when I say you will face hard times.  It has always amazed me how many people are shocked when tough times hit because they think as a follower of Christ nothing should go wrong…well, it’s hard to read your Bible and not see that tough times will come, and that adversity and pain hits all of us.  In fact in Hebrews 11 where we saw the definition of faith, the writer goes on to talk about all the great things that happen due to faith which can excite us Christian’s!  Things like blessings and great successful victories happen which we like hearing about…but there were tough times too.  The writer talks of Abraham, and Moses, and all kinds of awesome moments and then says this…

Hebrews 11:33 Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, 34 fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. 35 Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. 36 Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. 37 We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless —   38 the world didn’t deserve them! — making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world. 39 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. MSG

Some were amazingly blessed as they follow God, and scripture is also very clear that some really struggled.  You know I can find it really challenging personally when someone comes to me upset with God because they are doing everything right and still dealing with tough times in their life, now I’m not denying that it hurts…it does, and I’m not telling you it won’t hurt in the process, but here is my issue with this thinking…the Bible is very clear, adversity will hit.  Pain will come, even if you go to church on a Sunday morning.  Some will succeed and some will be sawed in two, even if we live great lives of faith.  This doesn’t mean that we laugh our way through difficult moments…we will be challenged at times, we will want to give up at times, but remember this is why our faith is so important, in the tough times it’s our faith that gets us through and when we get through the tough times we are better for it.  We grow.  We are different and our faith can actually be strengthened.  Following Jesus requires faith because life can be messy.  Let’s look back on our story at the prostitute weeping before God, her life was a mess but her faith drew her to Jesus, and because of that she gets to walk out of that encounter different.  Do you see it?

You know so many people really struggle to understand that as a Christian life will still be challenging.  Life is messy.  Some people really have the wrong idea about following Jesus.  They think that it’s about attending church now and then and expect God to bless them, with a nice home and nice things, and a nice life.  But if you read the Bible it may not actually work that way.  There are other people out there who think that following Christ is about following a list of rules.  I like to call that the “Do’s and the Don’t Do List” so for this person what happens is that if I can do all the “do’s” and not do all the “don’t do’s” I’m good!  This leads to a life of tremendous highs and lows.  So when I accomplish the list well on any specific day I’m very happy with myself, when I mess up (which you will because you are a person, who is imperfect and will absolutely mess up from time to time) you walk in guilt and shame.  You know what, that isn’t how it works either.  Based on what the Bible tells us and based off of real life experience, following Christ will require faith because life is not easy.  It can be messy and according to the Bible how I respond to the painful moments of life will determine a lot about my faith.  Will I be drawn towards God in those moments and have my faith strengthened or will I turn from Him.

So this really is our challenge to you here in 2018.  We are challenging you to be different, we are praying daily for you to be experience God’s love in such a way that it is changing your heart from the inside out…and it really starts with these two foundational steps.

Do you see just how deeply you need God in your life?  Are you broken before God?  If you do not see just how much you need God in your life, there really is no reason to change.  If this is the case, you will struggle to follow Jesus when he calls.  Remember Jesus’s words in Matthew 5…

“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.”   

Today we add a second thought to the idea of being different and it has everything to do with your faith.  Faith is so foundational to everything spiritual.  It’s faith that saves, and heals, and allows us to find peace, and rest, and courage…and it also allows us to get through the difficult times in life.  Life is not easy and how we respond to life and adversity is a really big deal.  Look, no one likes to hear this scripture when they are walking through tough moments, and painful times but it’s so important…

James 1:2 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 3 You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. 4 So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. MSG

So as you leave here today I would like you to be thinking through your own faith for a moment.  Are there areas of your life where you are struggling to trust God?  What are those areas?  Is it your family?  Is it your time?  Maybe it’s your finances or your relationships?  What is it?  Ask God into that area of your life right now.  How you respond to those areas and challenges where your faith is stretched will be a really big deal, and maybe just as that woman learned in our story today of her encounter with Jesus, it’s actually our faith that saves us and allows us to change, grow, and rest in God’s arms as we walk through whatever life sends our way.

And believe me, life will send some challenges your way, it’s inevitable.  So how we respond becomes a really big deal.